Saturday, November 23, 2013

Border Quilt Stories in DC

From Pedro Rios, AFSC:

This past week I participated in a delegation to DC as part of the Southern Border Communities Coalition’s (SBCC)* and CAMBIO’s<> campaign.  Border residents and advocates made up the delegation from the four southern Border States.  We placed a border quilt of 185 2ft by 4ft panels in front of the National Mall.  Border residents made the panels over a three-week period, coordinated by organizations and congregations from San Diego, CA to Brownsville, TX.

Each told a different story on how border enforcement has affected the lives of border community members.  Many panels expressed deeply intimate and personal stories of loss, highlighting cases of family separation, civil rights infringement, loss of life.  Other panels reflected on the greater structural problems that cause migration, critiquing neo-liberal policies and corporate wealth accumulation over local community sustainability.

Valentin Tachiquin, Maria de la Luz Rojas, Shena Gutierrez, and Guadalupe Guerrero shared their cases at the press conference as family members affected by border agent violence.

  *   Valentin Tachiquin’s US citizen daughter, Valeria Munique Tachiquin, was shot 9 times by a plain-clothed Border Patrol agent in the City of Chula Vista, a suburb of San Diego County on September 28, 2012.  In a previous law enforcement occupation, a judge had deemed the Border Patrol agent involved in Munique’s death unfit to carry a badge and a gun because of multiple civil rights violations.  More than a year since the incident, the Chula Vista Police Department has failed to notify Mr. Tachiquin of what progress has been made in the investigation.
  *    Maria de la Luz Rojas’ son, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, was tortured to death by more than 12 CBP, ICE, and Border Patrol agents in May 2010.  Traveling all the way from the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, Doña Luz courageously reflected, “When parents die, the children are called orphans.  When a spouse dies, the remaining spouse is called a widow/widower.  But when your child dies, or is killed by someone, what do you call the parent?  There is no name for this.”  Doña Luz’ ardent voice in seeking justice for her son and her family was heard at the press events and meetings she held while in DC.
  *   Shena Gutierrez also shared her husband’s terrifying account.  Border Patrol agents beat José Gutizérrez into a coma in March 2011 while he crossed into the United States after a deportation.  He had lived in the United States for most of his life.  While in a comatose state, the Border Patrol attempted to deport José during the three months that he remained hospitalized.  Five pieces of his skull had to be removed to prevent further injury from brain swelling.  Though José survived the brutal beating he now suffers from seizures.  In spite of Congressional inquiries, Shena still does not know which agents were involved in the beating, and José is still at risk of deportation.
  *   Carlos la Madrid was Guadalupe Gutierrez’s 19 year old son who was shot in the back three times and killed by a Border Patrol agent after allegedly throwing rocks in May 2011.  Since the initial reports of the incident, the Border Patrol has provided three separate accounts about what occurred the day Carlos was killed.  Now the authorities say he was caught in the line of fire.  Guadalupe had an opportunity to share her emotional testimony with members of Congress, which exposed Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher’s recent declarations on the use of lethal force against rock-throwers as dangerous and irresponsible.

The family members returned home on Thursday, November 21.  Some of us remained in DC for an additional day to continue with our advocacy with CBP, White House, and DHS officials.

The Border Quilt will remain in DC for safekeeping and planning continues about future opportunities for this moving and cathartic project.


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