Two others were arrested by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during Vigil-Fast for Victims of Border Patrol Violence
Nogales Port of Entry, Arizona: Today, Shena Gutierrez, an outspoken advocate for accountability and oversight over Customs and Border Protection (CBP), was mistreated and arrested by CBP agents along with activists Sarah Roberts and Richard Boren. They were participating in a 48-hour vigil and fast for victims of CBP violence when the arrests occurred.
Shena Gutierrez came to Arizona from her home in California to advocate for her husband, Jose Gutierrez, who suffered traumatic brain injuries and a subsequent coma after being apprehended and beaten by CBP agents at the San Luis Port of Entry (Arizona) in 2011. To this day, only 4 names have been released out of the 11 who were involved in his near fatal beating.
The bi-national event, which was held to bring attention to Border Patrol violence, was attended by the families of individuals who had suffered similar fates along the U.S. southern border region, as well as concerned community residents. Members of the recently formed, Border Patrol Victim’s Network, have reported that various participants were physically and verbally abused by CBP and that tensions between vigil participants and CBP escalated throughout the day.
Shena Gutierrez confirmed that CBP agents began to engage in combative and unnecessarily invasive questioning early Saturday afternoon. She said, “The agent started asking me ‘Where do you live? Why are you here? Are you going to be difficult with me?” Later that evening, when Gutierrez, Roberts, and Borden proceeded to the Nogales port of entry, another agent confronted them with similarly invasive questions. Mrs. Gutierrez became concerned when the agent took note of her t-shirt, which read “Truth, Accountability and Justice . . . Stop Border Patrol Brutalities!” and that showed a picture her husband in the hospital in a coma. They were then instructed to leave the port of entry.
After completing their exit, Gutierrez, Roberts, and Borden returned to make a formal complaint against the CBP agent. CBP officials refused to provide the agent’s name and proceeded to arrest the three vigil participants for “Failure to follow orders of a Federal Officer.” Mrs. Gutierrez sustained bruises on her upper arms and discoloration around her wrists from being physical restrained by CBP agents. Additionally, when Shena raised concerns about the pat-down search she received, an agent responded, “you better let them do it or else we’ll force you down and do it anyways!” The three participants were held in custody for several hours and eventually released with orders to appear in Federal Court at a later date.
According to Juanita Molina, Executive Director of Border Action Network, “Unfortunately, incidents like this continue to happen. As a community, we must require law enforcement to act in accordance with the law and distinguish between who they may disagree with and who is an actual danger to the country.”
Director of the Southern Borders Communities Coalition, Christian Ramirez, affirmed that “We condemn the abusive behavior committed by CBP officials against Shena Gutierrez. It is inadmissible that CBP officials will act in a retaliatory manner against a well-known advocate for accountability over CBP. We expect a full investigation to ensure that the agents responsible are disciplined accordingly.”
Community pressure has been mounting to control the Border Patrol following national and international pressure requesting the same. An internal audit of CBP’s use-of-force and abuse cases known as the Police Executive Research Form Report (PERF) has revealed that the agency lacks accountability, oversight, proper training and tracking of abuses. Community and civil liberties groups along with members of Congress have requested the public release of the report to prevent further abuses.