Latinos, Muslims protest Detroit border patrol

Sep 21, 2011

Some people in southwest Detroit say the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol continues to practice racial profiling in their community. Detroit is home to the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

Residents say Customs and Border Protection agents regularly question and detain people who look Hispanic.

At a press conference Wednesday,residents produced pictures they say show a young Latino man being handcuffed without cause by Border Patrol agents in July. It happened outside a Catholic church during Mass.

Father Tom Supelveda saw what happened. He says the incident itself disturbed him—but not as much as the effect it could have on his predominantly Latino congregation.

“It certainly is going to kill their desire to come in this direction, or the direction of any church,” Supelveda says. “It’s as if no place is safe.”

Some Michigan Muslims have also protested their treatment by Border Patrol agents. The agency denies its agents are engaged in racial profiling.

Immigrant and civil rights activists say this is just one example of continued “abusive enforcement” practices in the community, and throughout the country.

Lidia Reyes Flores runs Latino Family Services in southwest Detroit. She says Border Patrol agents have harassed people coming in and out of her agency--and that’s had a chilling effect on everyone.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re documented or undocumented…if they’re racial profiling you, you don’t feel like you should have to go through that. And I didn’t even understand that until it happened to me.”

Detroit Congressman John Conyers has called for a meeting with Customs and Border Patrol to discuss the issue.