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Border Patrol Arrests 32 At San Diego Demonstration

Demonstrators calling for the end of the detention and deportation of immigrants are met by Border Patrol agents at the border with Tijuana, Dec. 10, 2018.
Matthew Bowler
Demonstrators calling for the end of the detention and deportation of immigrants are met by Border Patrol agents at the border with Tijuana, Dec. 10, 2018.
Border Patrol Arrests 32 At San Diego Demonstration
Border Patrol Arrests 32 At San Diego Demonstration GUEST: Pedro Rios, director of the U.S.-Mexico border program, The American Friends Service Committee

Along the U.S. Mexico border in San Diego yesterday Border Patrol agents arrested 32 protesters. The protest was part of a nationwide week long series of demonstrations planned to show support for Central American asylum seekers in Tijuana. Pedro Rios is with the American Friends Service Committee. That's the organization that organized the demonstration. He joins us via Skype. Pedro thanks for joining us. Thank you for having me on. Now I understand there were about 300 protesters there yesterday. Tell us more about the purpose behind yesterday's demonstration. There were roughly between 300 400 protesters most of them were representing different faith communities that came from all around the country and to unite their voice together and to say that migrants who are making the way up north have a right that should be allowed the right to apply for asylum and the request was also to demilitarize border communities. And we held a press conference and then a procession that walked to the border wall. And this coincides with Human Rights Day and migrant stay. Correct. Correct. So Yesterday was International Human Rights Day the 70 year anniversary and so it made sense for us that we're talking about migrants who are seeking asylum because there are they are fleeing conditions that are probably obstructing the right to protect the human rights and the week of action will end on December 18th which is International Migrants Day in and the Border Patrol says 32 people were arrested for trespassing after crossing a barricade set up by Border Patrol. Most of them were sighted detained and released. Why do you think some demonstrators chose to cross into what Border Patrol calls an enforcement zone. You know we've seen over time that that enforcement zone is arbitrarily protected and so we're just two weeks ago for instance there's video footage of a couple of families that are playfully running in and out of the area without any sort of obstruction by Border Patrol. And this is with the concertina wire that's already been up and so the question about enforcement I think for me raises even more questions about when that sort of arbitrariness is made. We knew and they knew that this was a nonviolent action that the faith members wanted to essentially conduct the ceremony on the beach by the border wall without crossing anything through the fence that was not the intention was to meet with other faith leaders on the Tijuana side and conduct the ceremonial blessing. And unfortunately Border Patrol decided to act aggressively by wearing their riot gear and showing needed force. You mentioned earlier that you advocate against the militarization of the border and as you know today President Trump threatened to shut down the government over the funding for the border wall. And Democrats are offering one point three billion dollars for fencing and other border security measures. Would you be in support of that kind of compromise. Not at all. It's unfortunate that Senator Schumer and other Democratic leaders are taking a position of acquiescing to Trump's demands and they will begin with one point three billion dollars and soon enough they will acquiesce to even more. We've seen how border walls have been devastating to migrants. They pushed migrants into dangerous terrain. Since 1994 there have been over 70 800 people who have died in their attempts to cross into the U.S. And so we know that walls don't work. They're deadly and they're devastating to our fragile ecosystems. You've been involved in border issues here in San Diego for years. How do you see the situation over the latest wave of Central American migrants unfolding. You know it's a very grim situation. It's unfortunate that the Trump administration has responded with violence where Border Patrol agents have shot tear gas to groups of migrants where there are children included. And I think that the U.S. government needs to do more to accelerate the processing of people who are wanting to apply for asylum. They're becoming desperate frustrated. And that is them causing them to find ways to try to cross through ways that are more dangerous for them what are their types of actions are planned for the rest of the week. There are vigils there are ceremonial activities are held throughout the country. There are other actions planned in Washington D.C. from an all the way up from Alaska to Florida. There are over 50 events across the country that faith leaders are planning that other organizations are joining in our call to really push back and recruit repudiate the sort of aggressive actions that the Trump administration has taken against border communities and against migrants who are really looking for a better life for themselves. And as actions continue throughout the week do you expect there to be more confrontations with border officials and possibly more arrests. I hope that you know the intention yesterday was not to get arrested but surely fakirs when preparation for that because they've seen the videos of actual shooting tear gas. And so they thought you know if they could question the moral authority that of the Trump administration but perhaps they could be allowed to go in in a peaceful way and unfortunately Border Patrol chose to react in a much more aggressive and violent way. I've been speaking with Pedro Rios director of the U.S. Mexico border program the American Friends Service Committee. Pedro thanks for joining us. Thank you so much.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 32 people at a demonstration Monday that was organized by a Quaker group on the border with Mexico, authorities said. Demonstrators were calling for an end to detaining and deporting immigrants and showing support for migrants in a caravan of Central American asylum seekers.

A photographer for The Associated Press saw about a dozen people being handcuffed after they were told by agents to back away from a wall that the Border Patrol calls "an enforcement zone." The American Friends Service Committee, which organized the demonstration, said 30 people were stopped by agents in riot gear and taken into custody while they tried to move forward to offer a ceremonial blessing near the wall.

Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said 31 people were arrested for trespassing and one was arrested for assaulting an officer.

More than 300 people, many the leaders of churches, mosques, synagogues and indigenous communities, participated in the demonstration at San Diego's Border Field State Park, which borders Tijuana, Mexico.

RELATED: Migrants In Tijuana Trickling Over And Under Wall

The rally held on a beach divided by the border wall was the second confrontation for Border Patrol agents since a caravan of more than 6,000 migrants, predominantly Hondurans, reached Tijuana last month. A confrontation with rock-throwers from Mexico led to U.S. agents firing tear gas into Mexico on Nov. 25 and a five-hour closure of the nation's busiest border crossing.

Thousands of migrants are living in crowded tent cities in Tijuana after undertaking a grueling journey from Central America to the U.S. border. Many face waiting weeks or months in Mexico while they apply for asylum. The U.S. is processing up to about 100 claims a day at the San Diego crossing, which is creating a backlog.

The demonstration Monday was meant to launch a national week of action called "Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice," which falls between Human Rights Day on Monday, and International Migrants' Day on Dec. 18, the group said.

"Showing up to welcome and bless children, mothers and fathers seeking asylum from very difficult and dehumanizing circumstances is the right and humane thing to do," said Bishop Minerva G. Carcano, from the San Francisco Area United Methodist Church. "How we act in these moments determines who we will become as a nation."

The group also is calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

Border Patrol Arrests 32 At San Diego Demonstration

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