MURRIETA, CA—Citing alleged raids at areas where day laborers congregate and calling for a moratorium on deportations, about 50 people demonstrated Monday morning outside a U.S. Border Patrol station located in Murrieta.
Speaking—and sometimes chanting—in English and Spanish, representatives of groups such as Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, TODEC Legal Center, Pueblos de Fe and local residents took part in the rally.
The local Border Patrol station, part of the San Diego Sector, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, serves as home base for more than 100 Border Patrol agents who are responsible for an operational area of more than 3,300 square miles of Southern California, including two checkpoints.
It is alleged that throughout the region, at least 25 workers have recently been arrested in so-called raids carried out at day laborer corners. Some of these "corners" are located in Lake Elsinore, Perris and the Home Gardens area of Corona, demonstators said.
"According to witnesses, Border Patrol agents from the Murrieta station target isolated areas where workers are more vulnerable and have fewer support systems. They frequently detain people without reasonable suspicion, and those arrested often are mistreated in their custody and denied basic rights," the groups stated in a joint news release.
"They’ve come here many times, sometimes up to three times a week," said Jesús, a day laborer from Lake Elsinore. "They’re doing their job, but they abuse their authority. When they show up, they don’t know who has papers and who doesn’t. It’s not fair."
The demonstators demanded results of investigations into previous alleged raids, and called for a moratorium while federal lawmakers continue to work toward new immigration legislation.
"The way these detentions are being carried out is far out of line with the priorities set forth by the Department of Homeland Security, which has made it clear that the people they want deported are the ones who pose a security threat—not people who are just trying to put food on the table. The result is that these agencies are instilling fear in communities whose voices are most essential to the debate about immigration—those who are directly affected by deportation, and who would be impacted by reform," said Suzanne Foster, executive director of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, one of the organizations pushing the administration for a moratorium on deportations.
Representatives of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California requested data about Border Patrol operations in the area, but the agency has not been forthcoming with the information, the demonstators alleged.
"On behalf of and at the request of community members and organizations, the ACLU/SC and the NDLON reiterate their call for an investigation into the previous and continued raids and targeting of individuals exercising their first amendment rights and ask that the responsible agency come forward," said Lucero Chavez of the ACLU/SC.
The demonstators attempted to submit two arrest complaints to the Murrieta station; they were told the complaints must be submitted online.
In response to questions from Patch about Monday's demonstration, San Diego Sector Border Patrol Agent Jerry Conlin sent this statement:
"The U.S. Border Patrol was aware of the rally held today outside the Murrieta Station. Questions regarding whether or not this was a legal gathering should be directed to the local authorities.
"The U.S. Border Patrol ensures all enforcement actions are within established policies and guidelines, and in accordance with the law. Agents operate within numerous statutory authorities, some of which are provided in sections 235 and 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The U.S. Border Patrol will continue to enforce the laws of the United States we are charged with upholding.
"All accusations of misconduct are taken seriously, and are investigated as thoroughly as possible. In most circumstances, after an investigation of wrong-doing, agents and officers were found to have conducted themselves appropriately. However any CBP agent or officer within our ranks that does not adhere to the highest standards of conduct will be identified and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. Mistreatment or misconduct by a CBP agent or officer will not be tolerated in any way. As a matter of policy Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers are required to treat all those they encounter with respect and dignity. This requirement is consistently addressed in training and reinforced throughout an agent’s or officer's career. On a daily basis, CBP agents and officers make every effort to ensure that people in CBP custody are given food, water, and medical attention as needed. We appreciate the efforts of individuals to report concerns as soon as they arise and we will continue to cooperate fully with any effort to investigate allegations of misconduct.
"Individuals present illegally in the United States fall within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Border Patrol in regards to enforcement; all illegal aliens that are arrested are processed with regards to collection of biographic information, finger printing, and criminal records checks. Based on record checks they are further processed either for criminal or administrative proceedings.
"Due to privacy issues of detainees and operational security issues, Border Patrol stations are not routinely open to the public; however request can be made to tour unrestricted areas."