First in a series of comments recorded by the Texas Civil Rights Review at the Camp Mabry protest against the militarization of the border (June 24, 2006):
Will Harrell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Uni*n of Texas:
“We oppose the militarization of the border.
“We know that many of these women and men, these national guardsmen are probably headed down to the border, and they don’t really have a choice. Of course they can consciously decide not to go at all, but those who are not in a position to do that are going to head that way.
“We hope they will at least go down there with a consciousness that these are not enemy combatants that surround them, these are human beings who’ve lived there for generations upon generations and that they should be respected.
“We’re very concerned about the potential for violence, and we’ve been here before. Everytime for whatever pop reason the national leadership sends the guard or the military to the border, somebody gets hurt. I think that the last time we went through this there were eight shootings. And we’re very fearful that there will be shootings.
“But even short of shootings, it creates sort of an atmosphere of siege and fear and concern and stress, particularly on kids to be surrounded by men with M-16s. It just does damage to the human psyche. So for all sorts of levels we are opposed to the policy of sending the military to the border.”
Q: On the question of task forces. I know the ACLU has protested the task forces, and overnight we got word that the El Paso sheriff had taken down some of the checkpoints in his task force.
Harrell: “Yes, indeed, it was a glorious victory, but it’s simply a battle, the war is long and continuing. We’re still considering litigation, because damage has been done. And frankly, we’re encouraged and we salute this move, but it is only temporary, he says. And we need it to be permanent. If it’s not permanent, then we’ll be going to court, for sure.
“He also tried to mislead the public by saying wait a minute we never enforced immigration laws, and then he said, well we did, but there was only a secondary purpose. Well our position is number one he did in fact enforce immigration laws, or attempted to do that. And whether it was a primary or secondary purpose, it was still illegitimate.
“He didn’t do us any favors by stopping what he shouldn’t have done in the first place, but we’re glad he stopped. And we are continuing to monitor that.
“People are still scared you know. We were just out there. We just got back the night before last and people aren’t reporting crimes in the community, people aren’t going to church. Some parents won’t even take their kids to school for fear of being subjected to harassment by the Sheriff’s department.
“That fear will continue to linger. Just saying we’re not going to do that anymore isn’t enough. The sheriff’s going to have to actively engage the community, acknowledge publicly the error of his ways and try to rebuild those fences.”