Activists with the Southern Border Communities Coalition gathered outside the northern terminus of the San Ysidro pedestrian border Wednesday afternoon, May 13, in an effort to inform crossers of their rights and offer assistance to those who feel they've been wronged by Customs and Border Protection agents.
"We're focused on ensuring that members of border communities have their rights and dignity respected, and we think this is a good way to inform people as to what their rights are," explained Pedro Rios, who was among about a dozen orange-vested participants in the "border reality checkpoint" action.
The coalition describes the outreach effort as part of an ongoing effort "to revitalize, not militarize border communities and aims to inform residents of how to protect their rights, speak up about abuses, and join efforts to demand reforms."
Similar demonstrations were scheduled to take place in El Paso and Brownsville, Texas on Wednesday.
"We've fielded different complaints, ranging from verbal abuse to actual loss of life," Rios continues, saying individuals have faced rough language, property seizures, and handcuffed detention on numerous occasions before being released without charges.
"These people have the right to respectful treatment, and the right to know when and why they're being detained."
The group used Wednesday's event, as well as others before it, to meet individuals emerging from the pedestrian processing center, querying them on their experiences and offering handouts explaining their rights and the process of filing complaints.
"We hope to be able to shape policy in order to ensure that people have a pleasant experience crossing the border, rather than something that might be detrimental," said Rios.
Volunteers gathered contact information from some of the crossers who stopped to talk. Rios said they would follow up later to gather their stories and, if necessary, help individuals file complaints.
(corrected May 18, 12:10 p.m.)