Photo: U.S. Border Patrol Under Attack
Humanitarian organizations in Arizona on Monday accused the Border Patrol of continuing to implement a “culture of cruelty” that includes destroying water stations placed in the desert with the aim of saving the lives of dehydrated migrants crossing the border illegally from Mexico.
Danielle Alvarado, a volunteer with the group No More Deaths (No Mas Muertes), told Efe that the organization is constantly receiving complaints from immigrants about systematic abuse, like denying them water and food, as well as objectionable conditions in the detention centers.
The humanitarian organization documented on video two incidents, one that occurred in December 2009 and the other last May, where Border Patrol officers were filmed destroying a water station and bottles of water left by volunteers in the desert to help save the lives of undocumented migrants.
The video was included in a PBS program that was broadcast last Friday and that catalogued examples of abuses suffered by undocumented migrants while they were in the custody of Border Patrol agents along the frontier with Mexico.
John Fife, a retired Presbyterian minister and activist in southern Arizona, said Monday at a press conference that the most worrisome thing was seeing in the video how a Border Patrol agent said that it did not matter to him that he was being videotaped destroying water stations and that some of his colleagues had seen him do it and had not done anything to prevent it.
“Our volunteers who place the water in the desert are constantly threatened and harassed by the Border Patrol,” Fife said.
No More Deaths made three recommendations, among them establishing an independent commission to monitor the actions of the Border Patrol inside the detention centers and along the frontier.
The organization also wants an independent group to be created to prepare a medical evaluation of the detainees who are currently in custody.
They also asked for the federal agency to adopt and communicate to all its agents the humanitarian policy of providing water and food as emergency aid, a measure that complies with U.S. federal laws and the international standards of the Red Cross.
These same requests were made by the group to the Border Patrol in May and, in response, Fife explained that they received a letter in which the federal agency said that it valued human life and was committed to reducing the number of deaths of migrants in the desert.
However, at the same time the letter said that the perception exists that setting up water stations in the desert is helping undocumented migrants to enter the United States illegally.
According to a 2011 report prepared by No More Deaths, 10 percent of the 13,000 undocumented immigrants they interviewed reported suffering physical or sexual abuse from Border Patrol agents along Arizona’s frontier with Mexico.