Another side to discussions on border wall by Fernando Garcia
- in this e-mail
(1)Another side to discussions on border wall
(2)Barbara Lee Lashes Out at ICE
Another side to discussions on border wall
By Fernando Garcia / Guest columnistArticle Launched: 06/15/2008
12:00:00 AM MDT
Whether the construction of the border wall will be finished at the
end of this administration is still unknown, but one fact that has a
large degree of certainty is the profound damage already made by
Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials to the
public debate on issues concerning the rights and opinions of border
In a desperate attempt to expedite the construction of the wall,
current administration officials have not only been willing to
bypass more than a dozen laws and provisions, but now they have
tried consistently to convince public opinion, and themselves, of
the community support behind the construction of the border wall.
Moreover, they have created a quite artificial consultation process
to manage the congressional mandate of including border communities
in the discussion of this issue.
Sadly, they have done all of that at the expense of misrepresenting
the opinions and sentiments of people living on the border,
specifically those in El Paso and Southern New Mexico.
Just recently, Border Patrol officials of the El Paso Sector,
including Chief Manjarrez with a column on the June 8 Times Opinion
page, have lined up to argue that border residents of our area
have "overwhelmingly" showed support for the border wall at
community forums they have organized.
But let's see ...
For instance, the format of such community forums only had the
intention to show case DHS projects and to inform about border fence
plans and designs had already been approved.
The possibilities to have substantial discussion and to get
residents' opinions were conveniently minimized; since, of course,
taking the risk to have critical community input might have
derailed, or at least questioned the whole border wall strategy.
It is precisely here where the consultation becomes artificial.
As if by just mentioning the amount of such forums that had taken
place without mentioning the formats and mechanisms will do the
Moreover, almost all community forums organized by DHS experienced a
low turnout, showing a concerning disconnection between border
residents and the Border Patrol.
Therefore, it is surprising and, honestly, quite daring to assume
and publicly declare that the majority of border residents support
the border fence based on a fictitious consultation process and on
Fortunately, facts and reality cannot be overshadowed just by
mentioning unnamed and unscientific polls and surveys or by the sole
intention of a government institution's propaganda.
Unfortunately, a real community consultation on the border wall was,
is, and will continue to be missing, at least for now and for the
rest of this administration.
Finally, DHS and immigration officials could take the political
decision to ignore the dissenting expressions on the border wall.
They could dismiss the multiple actions (lawsuits and resolutions)
taken by many border counties and cities, including El Paso County,
that questioned the DHS border wall strategy.
They could try to obliterate those 6,000 residents of El Paso County
that, in just one week, signed a community petition to challenge the
construction of the border wall and its impacts on their lives and
They could, at the end, decide to complete the construction of the
border wall against the will of border communities.
But what they cannot, and should not, do is to misrepresent the
opinions of border residents to build an ill-conceived border wall.
At least, not in our name.
Fernando Garcia is executive director of th e El Paso-based Border
Network for Human Rights.
Rep. Lee lashes out against ICE
By Matt O'Brien
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 06/13/2008 09:47:38 PM PDT
[go to original for photos]
OAKLAND Pledging to "take them on big-time," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-
Oakland, sharply criticized the federal Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency Friday and declared she would push for measures
to reduce the fear she said agents have caused East Bay immigrant
The Oakland Democrat told a packed North Oakland church that she
wants to "ensure that ICE is following the rules and that those
rules are well-known and publicized especially when it comes to
actions at schools, hospitals, religious centers and other critical
Her comments followed a furor in Oakland and Berkeley last month
when federal operations to arrest illegal immigrants, which ICE says
were routine, caused panic because agents were seen in the vicinity
of public schools.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the sightings that caused
panic "turned out to be entirely erroneous. It's very unfortunate
that some people in positions of authority perpetuated those rumors."
But the circumstances surrounding those and other arrests continued
to invite condemnation and confusion from local officials this month.
Noel Gallo, an Oakland school board member, told Lee Friday that he
believed ICE agents "purposefully" parked near the Stonehurst
Elementary School on May 6. And he argued that it was not in dispute
that last year at Melrose Elementary School, ICE agents followed a
parent toward the principal's office and later escorted her out of
"I am concerned that these intimidation tactics are, quite frankly,
inhumane," Lee said. "Some, I think, could be politically motivated.
And they are all, I think, totally unacceptable."
What remains unclear is whether ICE has the sort of rules about
sensitive locations that Lee said she wants to make sure are
ICE's predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, had a
written policy expressly stating that the service "attempt to avoid
apprehension of persons and to tightly control investigative
operations on the premises of schools, places of worship, funerals
and other religious ceremonies," according to copies of agency
memorandums from the 1990s.
But Kice said that past policies were not necessarily transferred to
ICE when it formed under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland
Security in 2003.
"We're a new agency," Kice said. "We have a completely new mission.
We have established operating procedures."
Declining to speak about internal policies, Kice said that the
agency's publicly stated policy "is that we conduct enforcement at
appropriate times and appropriate places." She also said the agency
tries to avoid interaction with third parties that could jeopardize
the safety of agents or their targets.
Kice said that ICE's Northern California fugitive operations
division arrested 2,121 illegal immigrants between Oct. 1 and May
31. Of those, 1,471 were considered fugitives, or people who have
ignored a prior deportation order. Another 167 were not fugitives
but had criminal charges. And the remaining 583 were in the country
illegally and were picked up in the course of the operations.
Lee became the latest Bay Area lawmaker to lambaste the 5-year-old
immigration agency in recent weeks, although it was not immediately
clear how she would go about introducing any changes to current
Last month, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, invited San Rafael
educators to testify at a congressional hearing about the impacts
that Marin County immigration raids have had on local schools. At
the same time, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, has been leading an
inquiry into ICE's medical treatment of detainees.
Lee said she has raised her concerns with the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which this week proposed a draft
$4.8 billion budget for ICE in the coming fiscal year, which is $60
million more than what was requested by the Bush administration. Of
that, $800 million would be allotted to efforts focused on
identifying and deporting dangerous criminals. Legislators also
added a clause to the proposal that would force ICE to cancel
contracts with private detention facilities that receive poor
Reach Matt O'Brien at 925-977-8463 or