Students, faith leaders, and community members caught in border conflict
Minutes after midnight on April 28th, eight U.S. citizens from Austin, Texas, were deported from Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, a Mexican border town opposite Del Rio, Texas. The Mexican government’s action comes a few days before President Obama’s visit to Mexico on Thursday to redefine the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
“We have organized these tours for 14 years and have never experienced anything like this. We are shocked and outraged,” said Judith Rosenberg, board president of Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera (Austin So Close to the Border), a local non-profit.
The deported citizens were on an educational tour organized by ATCF to Ciudad Acuña to visit the offices of the CFO (Border Workers Committee), a community-based organization that defends worker and women’s rights on the Mexican side of the border.
As they were sitting down to have lunch, the delegation was surrounded by armed police, taken to the Mexican immigration office, detained and questioned for 9 hours, then deported to Del Rio. “We were never given a clear explanation of what charges and penalties we faced. We were not provided a legal translator and were pressured to sign some document under threat of being detained for up to 90 days in Saltillo, Coahuila,” said one deportee, a student at the University of Texas at Austin.
“We got a different kind of educational experience than we expected” said one of the other deportees, Reverend Kate Rohde of Wildflower Church in Austin. “If the Mexican Government is putting this kind of pressure on church ladies and students from the U.S., just for listening to workers, it is obvious that the Mexican workers we met receive much worse treatment from their government when they ask for humane working conditions and wages. We hope that President Obama will raise the issue of worker justice and independent unions when he meets with Mexico’s President.”
The group sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama asking for their assistance in this matter.
[Source: press release from trusted source, contact Josefina Castillo @ atcf.org]