This weekend no less than 100 Border Patrol agents attacked a group of about 40 peaceful demonstrators at the No Borders camp in Calexico/Mexicali (near San Diego/Tijuana). After giving no orders to disperse, the agents fired pepper ball guns into the crowd at close range and beat fleeing demonstrators with batons. All the demonstrators were detained and three were eventually arrested. Videos of the incident can be found on the No Borders Camp website at www.noborderscamp.org.
The Border Patrol sector chief called the detainees’ legal support team to set up a meeting, presumably to negotiate some kind of deal. This invitation was refused by the demonstrators who claim that they violated no laws and will continue to fight for the release of the three detainees.
It is important to understand that violence committed by the Border Patrol is routine. What makes this case unusual is the fact that the violence was perpetrated against U.S. citizens and was captured on camera. Instead of being viewed as an isolated incident, this event should serve as a reminder of the hostile conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to enter the United States without proper documentation each year. Abuse is widespread, and when would be border-crossers are deported to sites just across the U.S.-Mexico border they are often in very poor health and have been mistreated.
The Border Patrol’s response to the No Borders camp was inappropriate and extreme; however, it is not an anomaly. Aggressive behavior on the border is the norm. In order to address this issue, the United States needs to rethink its positions on trade and immigration. Immigration does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is the result of diverse social and economic factors. Current immigration trends will likely persist until the United States institutes realistic and comprehensive immigration reform.