The emotional scars from separating children from parents seeking asylum at the U.S. – Mexico border is just one type of violence migrants face; another is being shot by armed Border Patrol agents. This Friday afternoon, immigration activists will hold a vigil in front of the U.S. Border Control office in Ybor City.
Ana Maria Vasquez is a volunteer with the Border Patrol Victims Network:
“The Network is an organization set up by families of people who have been shot by the Border Patrol, or severely injured on either the U.S. or the Mexican side by the U.S. Border Patrol, of course and the volunteers who join in to help bring justice to these cases. There’s been more than 100 cases since 2003 and no one has been indicted for these crimes. There’s only one Border Patrol agent, Lonnie Schwartz – his trial is pending for October. They dropped the second degree murder charges last month. He shot – ten times in the back – a teenager in Nogales, Sonora [in Mexico on the border with Arizona] when he was walking to his house.”
Why do you think there’s so much violence at the border?
“I think because this kind of violence – these senseless murders by agents of the United States government – is happening because nobody is being punished. They are allowed to kill people and it’s okay.”
“[The U.S. Supreme Court] couldn’t decide if it’s legal for a family to sue once the bullet has left the United States. So, this is very dangerous. Because it means that anybody who is on the other side of the border can get shot and there is no precedent of anybody paying for these crimes.”
What would you say about the issue that we’re learning a lot about in the last month or so where these families are getting ripped apart at the border?
“I think that the problem is getting worse, but the families have been getting ripped apart on the border for a long time. Many times the families have been separated. Things are getting worse or are getting more publicity, but the policy of making a crime of people wanting to seek refuge, or to seek a better life, is something that has been happening for a long time. So, I think it’s good that people are noticing and it’s time to do something about it. Because none of these people are criminals. These people are fleeing very difficult situations. It’s very hot right now in the desert. When you’re there with your children and you and you came from Guatemala because of the volcano or Honduras with the violence or Colombia. Wherever you come from it’s not an easy journey. And people are not doing it because they want to just come into the United States and be criminals. They do it because they want – and are searching for – a better life.”
This week the U.S. Justice Department ruled hat victims of domestic violence or gang violence are not eligible for asylum.