By Shannon McClain, Guest Columnist
A friend of mine always gets pulled over by the police. They ask him questions like: “What are you up to tonight?” “Where are you headed?” and “Can I look in your trunk?”
The police officers do not give him a ticket or any other valid reason for pulling him over, but they let him go after asking these questions.
He is originally from Mexico, and his appearance is in accordance with his origins.
Even as far away from the border as Washington, police still violate his constitutional rights and pull him over without probable cause because of his appearance.
The constitution outlines our most sacred rights as humans, and gives these rights to not only American citizens, but to all persons.
While the “Legacies of the Shoah” symposium had various talks on this subject, I found alumni Brian Erickson’s story of particular interest. It pertained to our own abuse of human rights at the U.S.-Mexico border.
It was titled “What our ‘Constitution-Light’ Border means for Communities, the United States and World: Militarization, Abuse and Impunity along the U.S.-Mexico Border.”
Erickson, a policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, emphasized that we can’t see what is really going on at the border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) act without transparency, and we do not get the whole picture from the media.
The media can shape the way we think about subjects like immigration, and it has a strong influence over us, including police officers and other law enforcement like CPB agents.
There are fewer requirements to become a CPB agent than to become a local police officer. These agents also receive less training.
There are many disturbing cases of excessive force by CPB agents. Of the 24 deaths caused by agents last year, six were standing in Mexico and 10 were U.S. citizens.
In one case, Guillermo Arevalo Pedroza was shot and killed by an agent on a U.S. Border Patrol boat. He was picnicking with his family on the south side of the Rio Grande.
The filed reports stated the agent was responding to someone throwing rocks at the boat. However, footage taken with a cell phone doesn’t show any rock-throwing.
There is no one to hold them accountable for their abuse. There are no reports of officers facing any consequences for undue force.
These immigrants also have their legal rights violated. There is a court system, Operation Streamline, specifically for immigrants who live in the United States illegally.
They do not get true due process because this system is separate from our regular court system. About 30 people, or more depending on the area, are seen and tried at one time.
Each individual does not get his or her own lawyer. Instead, multiple people are defended by the same public defender.
In the media and other public spheres, people call them illegals and undocumented and commonly perceive them as drains on our society.
At the screening of “The Dream is Now,” Gina Fioretti said David Erickson and those in attendance discussed how “calling them ‘illegals’ dehumanizes them.”
We need to change our mindset on immigrants and not judge them on how they look or their immigration status.
Until we do, our country will continue to exploit the rights of these dehumanized humans.
We all value the human rights that are guaranteed to us in our constitution, so there is no valid reason why we wouldn’t want everyone to have those same rights.
So, make sure to be more aware of the wording you use if you are ever discussing this subject in class or outside of class. Also, be sure to stay informed on this political issue, and don’t rely only on the media for your information. ◼︎