Protests in San Ysidro Against Loss of Migrants’ Lives
By Manuel Ocaño
Hundreds of protesters marched through San Ysidro against the recent deaths of immigrants, especially children, while in custody or under arrest by Border Patrol.
Holding signs with images of four of the most recent deaths, three children and one teen – all from Guatemala – protesters arrived at the Border Patrol offices and the ICE Detention Center.
Right in front of the facility, they displayed life-size images of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in December while in Border Patrol custody in El Paso, Texas.
They also displayed images of Mariee Juárez, a Guatemalan baby who died due to a respiratory ailment after being held for six weeks at an Immigration and Border Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Texas; Felipe Alonso Gomez, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died during Christmas while under Border Patrol custody in El Paso; and Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, a Guatemalan teen looking for work to pay for her schooling, and who was killed last May when a border Patrol officer in pursuit to arrest her in Texas shot her in the head at close range. A woman who witnessed the shooting testified that the shot was unnecessary.
“All of them had travelled with their parents or other relatives to the U.S. to save their lives and to look for a better life, and their dreams were shattered because they ended up in Border Patrol custody in the era of the Trump Administration,” said Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee during the march.
“Today, we protest not only against President Trump’s immigration policies, but also expressly against Border Patrol’s deadly practices, particularly when immigrants end up in their custody,” he added.
After two children died last December while being held by Border officers, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen requested that the U.S. coast Guard medical corps assess CBP’s medical screening procedures for detainees, but stopped short of calling for changes in their detention policy.
Instead, Secretary Nielsen asked for Mexico’s help in investigating whether the children who died may have already been sick prior to crossing the border with their parents.
In San Ysidro, Border Patrol staged officers by the gate in anticipation of the protesters’ arrival; however, they remained within their grounds behind an automatic gate.
San Diego Police patrolled the march as they traveled from a nearby park to the Border Patrol offices.
The only incident was a counter-protest by approximately seven Trump sympathizers who gathered at the site, but the police kept them away from the protesters.
This was the third protest organized by the San Diego Migrant and Refugee Solidarity Coalition. There had been another march earlier in January, and one more last November, on the day that CBP temporarily shut down the San Ysidro Port of Entry to keep the migrant caravan to enter California through the facility.