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Human Rights Violations Tallied Up in AZ

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September 25, 2008

Phoenix, AZ – A cadre of volunteers in Arizona is on the lookout for evidence of constitutional and human rights violations against immigrants and others. They are collecting stories from witnesses throughout the state about suspected cases of unlawful detention, racial profiling, intimidation, and even torture, with the goal of educating law enforcement, employers and others about such problems.

Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network, admits that many of the stories involve immigrant families, but says people from all demographics are affected. She believes this project presents an opportunity to bring about change.

"We hope to create a truly functional community, including government agencies that are accountable to the people they serve. We want to ensure that checks and balances exist."

The story-gathering project is in its third year. Volunteers compile information and meet with law enforcement, businesses, housing managers and others to talk about what they've learned.

Allen says that process led to changes in one police department last year.

"The volunteers gave their testimony about what was happening in their neighborhood because of a certain officer and what he was doing, and presented a series of recommendations. The police department agreed with all the recommendations."

The Border Action Network makes every effort to validate the stories. The group is focusing this year on 11 communities, including Phoenix, Flagstaff, Douglas, Sierra Vista and Tucson.

Deborah Smith/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - AZ