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Rights Activists Claim INS Tactics ‘Barbaric’

Times Staff Writer

Human rights activists from Mexico and the United States on Wednesday condemned what they said is an upswing in violence against illegal aliens by agents of the U. S. Border Patrol, who were accused of cramming detainees into vehicles in “barbaric” fashion.

A spokesman for the Border Patrol, an enforcement arm of the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service, dismissed the charges as “preposterous.”

Roberto Martinez, a San Diego-based activist, singled out for criticism an alleged practice in which agents force as many as 12 undocumented people into the back of the patrols’ green and white Ford Broncos. There is barely space in the vehicles for five or six people, said Martinez, who charged that the vehicles sometimes drive for up to two hours with the human cargo in the rear.

Worse Than the Pound

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“The animals taken by the pound aren’t even treated this way,” said Martinez, who represents the American Friends Service Committee, the social action arm of the Quaker Church.

Alex Kwast, acting assistant chief Border Patrol agent in San Diego, said that, in general, no more than seven people are placed in the back of the vehicles, which he said are used for short-term detention and transportation. Agents are instructed to summon larger vans once they have more than a few people in custody, he said.

“We don’t put them in like cattle,” Kwast said.

The activists spoke at a Tijuana news conference that was also attended by Victor Clark Alfaro, who heads the Tijuana-based Binational Center of Human Rights. The groups called for the Border Patrol to stop using the vehicles to transport arrested foreigners.

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No Figures Provided

No figures were offered to buttress the allegations of an increase in violence, but the activists cited the case of Raymundo Estrada Guerrero, who sat in on the news conference.

Estrada, a 24-year-old Mexican citizen, says he was beaten without provocation by a Border Patrol agent on the evening of March 5, after he was arrested in San Ysidro, just 20 yards north of the border. On Wednesday, his left eye and lips swollen, he wore a handkerchief over his face to conceal his identity out of fear of Border Patrol retribution, he said.

Estrada, who does not know the name of the agent he says beat him, said he plans to cross the border again illegally, and does not want to be recognized by the agents should he be apprehended.

The activists said they plan to file a complaint on his behalf.

Kwast said he knew nothing of the Estrada case but that any complaints of mistreatment will be thoroughly investigated.


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