Tag Archives: News Flash

Release of PERF Report and Revised Use-of-Force Policies a Victory for Southern Border Communities

Quick and Thorough Implementation of Report Recommendations Critical to Ensuring Agency Transparency and Accountability

Washington: After months of publicly pressuring U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to release a critical review of its use-of-force cases and policies by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), border communities can now claim a significant victory in seeing the government release the PERF report. Today, the PERF analysis was brought out into the open along with the agency’s new Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook.

Earlier this week, advocates from southern border communities met with CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske in San Francisco and urged him to take swift action in implementing urgently needed reforms, including increasing agency transparency by releasing the PERF report.

Download: PERF Use of Force Review and  Use of Force Policy and Guidelines and Procedures Handbook

The release of the PERF review of CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, is seen as a turning point in public efforts to create transparency and accountability in an agency known for secrecy. But the real measure of success will be how quickly and effectively the agency is able to implement appropriate changes based on the PERF report’s recommendations and updated policies.

Among some of its key findings, PERF concluded that CBP agents intentionally placed themselves in harm’s way to justify deadly force, such as standing in front of moving vehicles and rock throwers rather than moving out of the way.

Since the revelation of some of the findings in this report last November, border communities, law enforcement and faith leaders have repeatedly urged the agency to publicly release the PERF report, which was completed in February of 2013.

Since 2010, CBP agents have killed 28 people, many of them citizens and some of them minors, yet no agent has been held accountable in any of these cases.  This clear lack of accountability at the agency prompted national and international scrutiny of CBP’s use-of-force practices and policies, culminating in an audit by PERF, which was completed in February, 2013, and kept from the public until now.

“Today’s announcement marks a turning point for the strained relations between Customs and Border Protection and civil society. The Obama administration must seize this opportunity and direct the new leadership of the Department of Homeland Security and CBP to enact rapid and thorough reforms at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. Our government can and must prevent further abuses and deaths in a region punished, for far too long, by overzealous enforcement,” said Christian Ramírez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

Member organizations for the Campaign for an Accountable, Moral and Balanced Immigration Overhaul (CAMBIO) released the following statements in response to today’s report release:

Vicki Gaubeca, director, ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights

“The release of these two documents hopefully heralds a new and welcomed age of transparency for the agency. It will still be important to see how these revised policies on use of force are translated into training and the agency will require monitoring to ensure that agents who violate these new policies are held accountable. Also, we hope that there will be more transparency in future use-of-force investigations and closure is still need for the family members of previous use of force incidents, such as in the cases of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, and Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez.”

Andrea Guerrero, executive director, Alliance San Diego; co-chair, Southern Border Communities Coalition

“Releasing the PERF report was a necessary first step to gain confidence in the new leadership at CBP and DHS. The Obama administration has an opportunity now to move forward substantive reforms to ensure the agency is held to the highest standards of professionalism and that decades of abusive and unaccountable behavior is finally put to rest.”

Rev. Randy J. Mayer, Pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ and CO-Founder of the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans

“For too long Customs and Border Patrol has acted in secrecy and impunity, tearing apart the trust and cohesiveness of our Border Communities.  We are grateful that they have finally heard the demands of the community and are giving us a first glimpse of how they actually operate and conduct business.   If they want to be a respected and valued part of our community they now need to implement the changes that the Police Executive Research Forum has recommended in their report.  Border Communities deserve and demand a more professional, transparent, and accountable Custom and Border Patrol, since it is the largest law enforcement agency that has saturated our communities with their presence over the last few years.”
James Duff Lyall, Staff Attorney (Tucson Office), ACLU of Arizona

“Long overdue, the release of this report is a positive step toward achieving the transparency that CBP has steadfastly resisted. Major reforms – including improved training and data collection and consistent complaint and investigations processes – are still needed to change the culture of impunity that has taken hold at CBP.”

Review of Released Documents

A review of the released documents reveals that most, if not all, of the PERF recommendations were included in the new Use of Force Handbook. These include new policies that direct agents to do the following:

•    Report all incidents of use of force for the agency to review.
•    Limit use of Electronic Control Weapons (Tasers) to situations in which subject is resisting in a manner that will cause injury; Do not apply more than 3 times or to sensitive areas, or in flammable situations, or to vulnerable populations (children, etc.).
•    Do not shoot at moving vehicles unless imminent threat of serious injury or death; Do not shoot at fleeing vehicles; Do not place yourself in the path of moving vehicle.
•    Do not shoot in response to projectiles unless there is danger of serious death or injury; Seek cover or remove from area of danger.

CAMBIO and its members organizations welcome the new policies. “We are pleased to see that CBP is taking the recommendations seriously,” stated Christian Ramirez. “The new policies on use of force represent an alignment with best practices in law enforcement and we will be watching closely to see that these policies are put into practice and that the agency fulfills prior commitments such as officially testing body-worn cameras to record agent interactions with the public.”

Ramirez added, “Had these policies been in practice previously, we would not now be mourning the loss of 28 border residents and the serious injury to many more. But we we are hopeful that these changes will turn the tide on the legacy of abuse that has marked this agency for decades.”

CBP Arrests and Mistreats Shena Gutierrez, Nationally Known Advocate for Accountability and Oversight Over CBP

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.

Border Action Network Supports Measures to Save Lives of Migrants in Southern Arizona

Tucson Sector Border Patrol shares strategies and demonstrates new emergency beacons at Border Safety Initiative Event

Migrant deaths continue to be a reality for our border community. As of today Humane Borders has mapped 2,602 deaths in southern Arizona since October 1, 1999, and the number continues to increase as we approach the extreme climate changes typical of the seasons for the Sonoran Desert.

Although the number of apprehensions has decreased in the Border Patrol Tucson Sector, the rate of people dying has remained constant. Since fiscal year 2011, there have been 16 border crosser remains found for every 10,000 apprehensions — only falling slightly to 15 in 2012.  Dr. John Chamblee, Research Chair for Humane Borders explains, “Over the last ten years, undocumented migrant death rates on the border have increased as proportion of total apprehension rates. At the same time, migrants have been dying closer to the border and further from roads. These shifts result from the escalation of border enforcement strategies that use the landscape as a deterrent. As long as the legal definition of “operational control” on the U.S. southern border includes “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States,” we should not be surprised such landscape-based approaches are pursued. Humane Borders data show that landscape-based deterrence makes the crossing environment deadlier for migrants. What the data do not show, but I believe to be true nonetheless, is that these policies are not just bad for the migrants, but also that they are bad for those responsible for doing border enforcement, who, under the current definition of a secure border, are being asked to do the impossible.”

Tucson Sector Chief, Manuel Padilla addressed the crowd after leading a delegation through a migrant trail, “Imagine doing the walk we just did in 113-degree weather. It’s impossible for a person to carry enough water.  A person in the desert needs about a gallon of water for every hour walked. It takes some immigrants five to nine days to walk to places like Casa Grande and Phoenix from west of Sasabe. Many risk their lives because they are not aware of the dangers.”
In 2013 Humane Borders launched The International Open GIS Initiative for Missing and Deceased Migrants, which is a result of a common vision and partnership with the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office and the participation of local law enforcement including CBP. Its purpose is to provide geographic information systems-based tools that use publicly available information to grant access to high-quality, frequently updated, and downloadable spatial data regarding migrant deaths. These customizable search tools available through the menu options will allow any user to query data concerning migrant deaths, view the data using on-line maps and tables, and download the data for further use. This tool will support the work of first responders and law enforcement agencies responding to this crisis. This dialog has enhanced the binational education campaigns by humanitarian aid organization and Border Patrol.  Juanita Molina, Executive Director of Humane Borders and Border Action Network stated, “A just and humane society integrates the inherit value of each human being into every institution.  Our government’s disproportionate response to the risk posed by economic migrants has caused thousands of deaths and created a generational footprint on our state. A Border Enforcement measure created to preserve human life is fundamental to our values as a community.”

The Tucson Sector has 22 rescue beacon towers with mirrors and a blue light to attract immigrants who need help. Once there, they can push a red button that sends a signal to the stations.  In fiscal 2013, there were 97 activations that resulted in 165 people being rescued. Through March 21, there have been 56 activations and 80 people rescued.  Pastor Randy Mayer stated, “It is great to see that the Border Patrol is working harder to save immigrant lives that have been pushed into the most dangerous areas of the Sonoran Desert by the Border Patrol’s own tactics.  Our hope is that twenty rescue beacons can soon multiply to thousands and the desire to use the deadly Sonoran Desert as a deterrent can be banished as a heartless and disastrous project.”