The Main Stream

Jul 19, 2012 1:00 AM

Harassment allegations against Border Patrol in Tohono O'Odham Nation

GU VO, Ariz. - The Tohono O'Odham Nation is a hotspot for drug and human smuggling.

Border Patrol stepped up their efforts on the nation, but now residents said they're being harassed.

Residents said they feel targeted in their own community, and they want that to change.

The Community of Gu Vo is one of 11 districts on the Tohono O'Odham Nation.

The stretch of this land begins near Highway 86, about an hour from Sells.

Joseph Flores said living here used to be peaceful.

"It feels like we're being watched all the time," said Flores.

He said Border Patrol agents are now everywhere, and he's been accused of being involved in illegal activity.

"Constant surveillance on us, and we're being harassed," he said.

Flores said there's no privacy.

"Coming around my house late at night, and under the cover of darkness," he said.

Elsie and Anthony don''t want to go on camera for safety reasons.

"It's like being discriminated because some of them look like Mexicans," said Elsie.

They said they are speaking out to protect their community because according to them if things continue the way they are, someone could get hurt.

"The Border Patrol [agent] took out his weapon and was pointing right at me," said Anthony. "Minutes later there were a whole bunch of them that came at one time."

He said when the agents saw kids in his car they withdrew their guns and let him go.

"There are some good Border Patrol that will treat you with courtesy and respect and will talk to you in a good way, but there are some others that will just intimidate you and get in your face," said Anthony.

The Border Patrol wouldn't comment on camera, but sent this statement:

"As a matter of CBP policy, Border Patrol agents are required to treat all those they encounter with respect and dignity. This requirement is consistently addressed in training and reinforced throughout an agent's career.

"Mistreatment or agent misconduct will not be tolerated in any way. Any agent within our ranks who does not adhere to the highest standards of conduct will be identified and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

"We appreciate the efforts of individuals to report concerns as soon as they arise and we will continue to cooperate fully with any effort to investigate allegations of agent misconduct or mistreatment of individuals.

"In the course of performing our duties, CBP is committed to fostering strong working relationships with federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners."

Border Patrol said anyone can call 1-877-872-7435 to report misconduct to the agency.

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