Monday, July 05, 2004 > News > Mexico -- Protesters hit Border Patrol over its 'sweeps'
By Leslie Berestein
June 30, 2004

Waving signs with slogans like "Migra-Free Barrios," several dozen community activists and protesters gathered in Chicano Park near downtown San Diego yesterday to protest a rash of recent Border Patrol searches for undocumented immigrants.

They said the "roving patrols" that began this month in parts of San Diego County and neighboring counties have terrorized Latino communities and stripped them of their dignity.

Two protesters were the parents of local soldiers who have served in Iraq, one of them a man whose son was killed last year. A Logan Heights woman whose son is in Fallujah complained that the patrols disrespect law-abiding Americans by subjecting them to racial profiling.

"He is fighting for a country where rights are being cut away from his family, his friends and his community," Sonia Rodriguez said in Spanish.

More than 400 undocumented immigrants have been arrested by Border Patrol agents working as a "mobile patrol group" out of the Temecula Border Patrol station, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They have been conducting daily operations in a 3,000-square-mile area that stretches into San Diego County, as well as Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Last Friday, after fielding complaints from concerned members of Congress, officials from the Department of Homeland Security concluded that the patrols had not received the required approval.

The local Border Patrol office should have first obtained approval from U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington, D.C., said Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Gloria Chavez.

"In the future, the local sectors will have to submit a request for these types of actions," Chavez said, adding that agents have not been operating illegally.

The situation is being reviewed by a top Homeland Security official. The patrols have not been suspended.

Members of Congress who met last week with Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary of Border and Transportation Security, have been promised a statement from him this week with further information.

A Homeland Security spokesperson would not speculate on whether the statement will include a directive to suspend the patrols.

Many Latinos and immigrant rights activists are angry about the way the patrols have been carried out, characterizing them as "sweeps" in which people have been asked for identification simply for looking foreign.

Last week, the American Friends Service Committee, which is affiliated with the Quakers, videotaped agents boarding a bus in the Logan Heights area.

"What they are doing is just questioning people willy-nilly," said Claudia Smith, an attorney with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. "They can't approach you solely on the fact that you fit an ethnic profile."

Border Patrol officials insist that people have been questioned based not on ethnicity but on "intelligence," with agents responding to information about locations where undocumented immigrants might be.

Immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have been arrested, Chavez said. She said she did not know of immigrants from Asia or other places outside Latin America being arrested.

*********They need to get out there and do some "sweeps" in Asian neighborhoods, then. There is no shortage of illegal aliens. Hispanics are only 60% of them. I think part of the problem is the difference in culture and attitude between Hispanics and people from other countries. As far as I can tell Asians live a more cloistered lifestyle than Hispanics do. Hispanics are obnoxious and openly flaunt our laws, while Asians and others keep a lower profile and work at blending in rather than standing out - otherwise known as assimilating. Because Hispanics make up the largest percentage of illegal aliens, that also makes them more noticable as a group by people - just like you and me - who are concerned about illegal immigration. If we notice more, we are bound to report more, and BICE is bound to have more intelligence about that ethnic group. Hispanics have done this to themselves, through their numbers and their attitudes. *******


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