An El Paso-based human rights organization reports the relationship between local communities and the United States Border Patrol is vastly improving. But across state lines, in New Mexico, there are reports of sheriff's deputies improperly asking about immigration status.
For the first time in 13 years the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) had no documented cases of abuse against the Border Patrol. The nonprofit complies an annual report on law enforcement misconduct in communities along the West Texas and southern New Mexico border. Executive Director Fernando Garcia said the organization has maintained open communication with the Border Patrol for at least a decade.
"We conducted throughout the years joint community forums where we talk about the rights of people and the authority of the Border Patrol," Garcia said.
Those forums and human rights training have yielded good results, he said. When BNHR first started documented law enforcement abuse, cases against the Border Patrol made up 70 percent of their report. The organization documents cases that include local, state and federal agencies.
In New Mexico, residents reported sheriff's deputies in Doña Ana County made traffic stops and asked people about their immigration status. Enforcement of immigration laws is primarily the responsibility of federal agencies.
"It is against our standards and procedures to ask for immigration status during a traffic stop," said Kelley Jameson, spokeswoman for the sheriff's department. "That is not the function of this agency."
BNHR has seven documented cases they plan to submit to the sheriff's department. The organization also documented claims of inappropriate searches by U.S. Customs agents and questionable detentions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.