BREAKING: The sixteen activists from seven different states including California, NY, Missouri and Texas have been charged in connection with a Feb. 16 protest at the Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Tx. Three individuals were charged with misdemeanor trespassing and thirteen were charged with felony criminal mischief.
El Paso Police Department announced warrants have been issued during an April 4 press conference. Today at 8 a.m. two of the activists Ana Tiffany Deveze, from El Paso and Elizabeth Vega, a Las Cruces native who now resides in St. Louis self-surrendered after a march from Aztec Calendar Park to El Paso County Jail. They were joined by supporters who carried signs urging the state to drop the charges.
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The sixteen activists facing criminal charges were part of Tornillo The Occupation, a coalition of various individuals and organizations from El Paso and across the nation that travelled to the borderland to bring attention to the inhumane detention of children at the now-infamous Tornillo detention facility.
The 15 minute action highlighted the stories of Jakelin Caal Maquin, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, and Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, three migrant youth who have died in Border Patrol custody in recent months.
The coalition maintains the allegations made against its members are grossly exaggerated and especially egregious in light of the human rights violations that activists are speaking out against including the warehousing of asylum seekers under the Paso Del Norte Bridge.
“Our government had men, women and children caged under a bridge surrounded by fence and razor wire. These human beings, many of them young children had to endure pigeons defecating on them, cold winds and a lack of adequate shelter. People walking over the bridge could hear children crying beneath their feet.This is criminal and true crimes against humanity. As a mother, grandmother and veteran” Vega said, “I feel it is my moral duty to take a stand.”
The coalition believes the charges are part of a deeply troubling pattern of criminalizing both humanitarian aid and those who decry state sanctioned violence. Days before the Borderland16 warrants were issued in El Paso, students at the University of Arizona were issued criminal charges following a protest against Border Patrol representatives during a presentation on campus.In January of 2018, eight members of No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization, were arrested for leaving water along known migrant paths in the Arizona desert following their release of a report that exposed a practice of Border Patrol agents destroying life-saving humanitarian aid.
“Giving water and aid to human beings should never be a crime,” said Deveze, the only local coalition member charged in connection to the action. Deveze, a mother and community educator was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and had her photo included on El Paso Most Wanted said she is not a criminal nor is she ashamed. “As a lifelong resident of the border region and as a mother, I have to think very critically about the kind of world that I want to leave for my children and the kind of example I want to set for them. The human rights abuses that myself and members of my community have witnessed are unconscionable. I cannot stand idly by while migrant families are under siege at the border. My work in support of immigrant communities and histories in my home town have compelled me to speak and to act. I call on the international community to hear the voices and stories of migrant families and demand an end to this manufactured human rights crisis on the U.S. / Mexico border. I will not allow my work to be criminalized. I will continue to stand with my community and defend human rights on both sides of the border, I will not be intimidated. I am not ashamed and I am not afraid.”
A legal defense fund has been set up for the activists. The coalition asks that all people of conscience help support the effort by donating to their defense at: http://bit.ly/borderland16