Activists On Trial After Complaining About Abuse And Retaliation By Border Agents

The activists say they are being penalized for asserting their rights and speaking out against misconduct.

Border Patrol Victims Network / Via Facebook: 452623394841164

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Charges against Gutierrez and one other activist were dropped Wednesday and each agreed to pay $100 in court and administrative fees, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

A third activist, Richard Boren, declined to pay the fees and instead asked for a trial in hopes of learning the names of agents involved in the arrests.

Three activists who were arrested after complaining about physical and verbal abuse at the hands of border agents at an Arizona port of entry were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday to defend themselves against charges of disobeying a federal officer and, in one case, impeding an inspection.

The activists, who are members of the Border Patrol Victims Network (BPVN), are asking the DeConcini federal court in Tucson to drop all charges, arguing their arrests fit a pattern of cover-up and retaliation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) against individuals who assert their rights or file complaints against the agency.

“CBP appears to routinely abuse its authority by penalizing those who question agents’ behavior or speak out against misconduct,” Hanna Hafter of No More Deaths, which is supporting the activists, said in a statement.

CBP did not provide BuzzFeed with comment before publication and said it may be unable to do so because litigation is pending.

On May 24, Shena Gutierrez of Los Angeles went to Mexico to tell the story of her husband, Jose, who suffered permanent brain damage after he was beaten and tasered by border agents during an apprehension near another Arizona point of entry in 2011.

While trying to cross back in Nogales, Ariz., Gutierrez — a founder of BPVN — says she was physically and verbally abused by an agent at the DeConcini Port of Entry, according to a press release.

Gutierrez later came back with several BPVN volunteers to demand the name of the agent involved in the incident so that she could file an official complaint. Agents did not comply, and eventually arrested her and two others.

Gutierrez was charged with impeding an inspection in addition to disobeying a federal officer.

BPVN is made up of people who have experienced abuse or whose family members have been killed by border agents. The organization says the activists’ arrests were “arbitrary” and that actions taken by CBP create a general environment of impunity.

CBP has not yet released the names of the agent involved in the May incident and has also withheld the names of some of the agents involved in the 2011 beating of Gutierrez’s husband, according to BPVN.

A spokesperson for CBP’s Tucson sector, which includes Nogales, said the agency would not be able to comment on the incident by the time of publication. Additionally, no comment may be forthcoming because the agency doesn’t normally comment on pending litigation, the spokesperson said.

In June, CBP’s head of internal affairs was removed from his position amid concerns he did not direct the agency to investigate hundreds of allegations of abuse and use of force by Border Patrol.

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