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Immigrant Advocates Look to Team Up with Law Enforcement

November 7, 2008

Tucson, AZ – Despite disappointment in the second mistrial of a Border Patrol agent charged with murder, Southern Arizona immigrant advocates want to work with law enforcement to make border communities safe and secure.

The activists traveled to the Arizona border city of Douglas on Thursday. There they held a news conference calling for more cooperation to make the border areas safer. Jennifer Allen, Director of Border Action Network, says residents need to have confidence in law enforcement.

"That's all people really want, is to just be able to live safely and securely and have that necessary confidence that their safety's going to be protected."

Border Action released a report documenting alleged abuses, including a Douglas high school student walking down the street who was restrained and thrown against a wall by a Border Patrol agent who thought he looked suspicious. Allen is calling for a meaningful process to resolve complaints. A Border Patrol spokesman says all abuse allegations are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.

Allen believes Border Patrol, Customs, local police and sheriffs need more training in responding appropriately to encounters with violent criminals, undocumented immigrants and ordinary citizens.

"The agency needs more tools to be more effective at identifying who is who. The problem right now is that the net is being thrown out too wide and too many people are getting caught up in it."

Despite allegations of abuse, Allen gives federal and local law enforcement agencies credit for being willing to listen.

"We do have confidence that we will be met with an open door and people will hear our concerns. The question is always whether or not the recommendations will be adopted by the agencies themselves."

The Border Patrol insists its agents take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and are held accountable if they don't. However, Allen says officers need more education in human and civil rights.

The report on alleged abuses is at www.borderaction.org/web/images/materials/abusedocreportdouglas-06-08-web.pdf

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ