New Documents: BORTAC and Border Patrol Union President Played Role in 2017 Raid and Arrests at Humanitarian Aid Station

Jul 29, 2020
1:15 PM

Photo via No More Deaths

The following media statement was shared Wednesday by No More Deaths:

TUCSON, AZDocuments recently obtained through FOIA request shed light on new details about the 2017 raid and arrests at a No More Deaths aid station near Arivaca, Arizona. The documents include an email indicating the involvement of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, or BORTAC, in the incident. BORTAC has gained recent notoriety for violent urban tactics in response to uprisings in defense of Black lives.

The FOIA documents also include an email sent from an unnamed source four hours before arrests were made, stating that Border Patrol’s apparent reluctance to raid a humanitarian aid camp was not “the wish of the Trump administration.”

The emails revealed that two BORTAC agents acted in an advisory role during the raid. After obtaining a warrant, Border Patrol descended on the NMD camp with 30 agents, 15 trucks, and a helicopter circling overhead. This heavy handed response highlighted Border Patrol’s willingness to mobilize excessive resources and force to attack and intimidate aid workers—a fact that further called into question the agency’s claim that they are a “humanitarian” organization.  The agents arrested four people who had sought medical care and respite from the heat at the aid station.

While the sender of the email was redacted, it included reference to congressional testimony about apprehension rates and polygraph tests. Congressional testimony from Border Patrol National Council President Brandon Judd a few months prior included testimony on apprehension rates and polygraphs. The revelation implies that the Border Patrol Union, one of the most powerful law enforcement unions in the country, played a role in provoking the 2017 raid.

At a time when nationwide organizing in defense of Black lives is focused on defunding and abolishing law enforcement, the role of law enforcement unions cannot be minimized. The Border Patrol Union endorsed Trump during the election. The revelation that they may have influenced the agency to raid a humanitarian aid station adds weight to accusations that Trump is using the Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security to impose his political goals.

“The 2017 raid of our field clinic and the targeting of aid workers more broadly was one of the indications that DHS was becoming more aggressive in their tactics under Trump,” said No More Deaths volunteer Max Granger. “The government is widening the net of those they considered ‘criminal.’ For almost two decades, undocumented communities and border residents have organized and raised the alarm around these agencies. Once they started targeting citizens —and now that they’re targeting white protestors— more people are paying attention.”

Border Patrol abuses have been widely documented for years. No More Deaths has published numerous investigative reports that indicate a widespread culture of cruelty within the agency. The first two parts of the latest No More Deaths report series, “Disappeared: How The US Border Enforcement Agencies are Fueling a Missing Persons Crisis,” examine Border Patrol’s dangerous apprehension tactics in the desert, and the agency’s routine destruction of water and other humanitarian aid supplies. Part Three of the report, “Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance,” will be released next month.