Faith Leaders Arrested for Civil Disobedience in Support of Immigrants

Created: 13 December, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Manuel Ocaño

Manuel Ocaño | La Prensa San Diego

Armed Border Patrol officers in riot gear arrested 32 faith leaders who were demonstrating their support for the caravan of immigrants now stuck in Tijuana.

Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Quakers, and Indigenous faith leaders were among the people detained as they advanced towards the border fence – crawling across the sand, now covered with razor wire, on their knees with their hands held high.

Border Patrol confirmed having arrested 32 individuals, and the demonstration organizers, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), reported no people were hurt during their arrest.

The peaceable demonstration, held on International Human Rights Day, marked the launch of the Love Knows No Borders campaign being organized by faith leaders, with activities continuing until Dec. 18, which is International Migrants’ Day.

Close to 400 faith leaders initiated the campaign with a 3-mile procession along the now-muddy Tijuana River Valley trail towards the beach, then proceeded in silence across the sand until they were almost to the border fence, where they were met by dozens of Border Patrol officers in riot gear.

During the only stop along the procession, Reverend Jorge Bautista of San Mateo, California, read the names of 48 people who have been killed by Border officers, including Anastasio Hernández Rojas, Valeria Munique Tachiquín, and José Antonio Elena Rodríguez.

As they approached the fence, a smaller group of religious leaders left the main group behind and proceeded towards the officers until they kneeled right in front of them.

While an officer warned the kneeling faith leaders that they were in a federal enforcement area, two armored vehicles and dozens of uniformed officers gathered atop a hill.

Officers forced the faith leaders back on three separate occasions. On the second instance, they detained four people, who were immediately released with only a verbal warning telling them that if they were detained again, they would be turned into county authorities to face charges.

The third time around, officers began to arrest the retreating faith leaders – some of them still on their knees and others back on their feet – under charges of civil disobedience.

On behalf of those arrested and the rest of the procession participants, AFSC stated that the faith leaders participated in the act of civil disobedience based on their own spiritual values and beliefs.

“This belief calls us to stand with those fleeing violence and poverty, and to call on our government to uphold the human rights of migrants and end the militarization of border communities,” shared Laura Boyce, Associate General Secretary for U.S. Programs at AFSC.

“In the face of the Trump administration’s violent rhetoric and policies,” said AFSC General Secretary Joyce Ajlouny, “we are here to stand with border residents against militarization and for absolute protection for migrants seeking refuge and asylum.”

In a joint press release, participants stated that the demonstration was a statement by all faiths represented calling on the U.S. Government to respect the human right to migrate, to put an end to the militarization of border communities, and to stop immigrant deportations.

They also called for the disbanding of the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and curb the ever-growing budget for customs and Border Protection (CBP).