U.S. Border Patrol agents disrupted opening day at a new sports complex in South Texas this month to detain two spectators, a woman and child, leading families and advocates to demand a meeting with local immigration officials.
In La Joya, Texas, community groups want changes after Border Patrol agents aggressively questioned the woman and child – drawing multiple Texas Department of Public Safety and Border Patrol vehicles to a baseball game – and then took the two into custody, according to La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a local grassroots organization.
The Nov. 20 incident halted what was designed to be a positive community gathering at La Joya Sports Complex in the Rio Grande Valley. Instead, most spectators left the complex before the baseball game resumed, and the second game of the day was never played after one of the teams cancelled, according to LUPE spokesman John-Michael Torres.
“Border Patrol should immediately cease causing fear at public events by questioning and detaining community members; this is becoming far too common,” the Immigration Working Group of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, which is made up of grassroots organizations, said in a statement.
It “creates a hostile, unwelcoming environment that frightens all of us. This is certainly true for our undocumented family members and neighbors who risk being deported away from their families. But it is also true for anyone who would rather stay home than risk being subjected to questioning and harassment.”
The woman and child were detained and then released, according to a statement from the Border Patrol included in a story by CBS 4, which is based in the Rio Grande Valley. The incident was captured in a video that was posted in the story.
“…Border Patrol agents from the McAllen Station working in La Joya, Texas, witnessed a woman and three children walking out of the brush next to the river and into the nearby stands of a baseball field. Agents approached the woman who claimed that she had taken the children to the brush to go to the bathroom. During the conversation, it was determined that the woman and one of the children were in the United States illegally. The woman and child were taken into Border Patrol custody,” the Border Patrol said in the statement.
In the wake of the incident, La Joya Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas met with local Border Patrol officials, who reportedly agreed that questioning the women and child “was legal but not smart,” LUPE Executive Director Juanita Valdez-Cox, who attended part of the meeting, recalled.
“The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector should issue a commitment that sensitive locations enforcement rules include public events and pledge not to intrude into community members’ daily lives, like baseball games, without good and urgent cause,” the Immigration Working Group said.
There are encouraging signs. Border Patrol officials have responded positively to holding a public meeting where members of the community can voice their concerns about these types of actions, Torres said.
“What we need is the sector leadership to implement policies that guide Border Patrol enforcement activities so they do not disrupt people’s daily lives or enforce immigration laws during public events,” Torres said. “Where there isn’t a clear pressing need to be doing that, they shouldn’t be doing that.”
Community organizations and the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network will propose a date for the meeting.
“Like others communities around the country, we want to live our lives with dignity and free from intrusion of officers in our daily lives,” Torres said.
Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News. About the top image: This is a screenshot of a video, posted on YouTube and made by Frances Salinas De Leon. It shows U.S. immigration agents questioning a woman on Nov. 20 at a baseball game in La Joya, Texas.
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