I just saw something I had never before seen happen at the border in my 69 years of crossing.
I was at the pedestrian crossing at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry and the border officer did not allow a little girl (a minor) go up to her with her mother. She made the little girl go through alone and then sent her outside the building – alone, at night. If the mother had been detained, that child would be on her own and end up with Child Protective Services for being on her own.
I asked the officer, who spoke with a Russian-like accent, how she could send that child outside alone. She responded that the child would be on federal property and that there were many border police outside. There was nobody outside. The officers were on the other side of a 15-foot iron fence, across the street, across a four-foot cement wall, with their backs towards the exit of the port of entry. They would be oblivious if a child was distraught at the exit and the child would not have known what to do.
I fear for all children who are crossing legally with their parents. They are being separated from them and being placed in danger. The president of the United States has told the officers he has their back. This is institutional child abuse, putting children in traumatizing situations.
On another occasion, I witnessed Central Americans walk up to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the border to request asylum. I was next in line to drive into the border check and already in U.S. territory with the officer right next to me, so the asylum-seekers were on U.S. soil.
Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international legal definition of a “refugee.” (The Refugee Act established two paths to obtain refugee status — either from abroad as a resettled refugee, or in the United States as an asylum-seeker.) But the Central Americans were turned away. The CBP officer lied to the Central Americans and sent them away.
I ask the Nogales community to be vigilant. Whether you cross the border or not, if friends and family share problems they are having at the border, please report them to your , in my case I will be reporting this to Rep. Raul Grijalva (520) 622-6788, Sen. Kristen Sinema (602) 598-7327 or Sen. Martha McSally (520) 670-6334. If you can get the officer’s name, it is even better.
If these federal agents can lie like this and create their own international laws, who have we become as a community and as a nation?