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News :: Civil & Human Rights

Border Patrol recruitment protested

“Let me see your I.D.!?

U.S. Border Patrol agents stormed a conference room Saturday at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel on the Downtown Mall, throwing to the floor and arresting several illegal immigrants who didn’t have proper documentation.

Well, not really.

It was, in fact, a staged mock arrest to protest a Border Patrol recruiting event held at the Charlottesville hotel.

About 20 protesters walked into the Omni and registered for the event, sitting through a video that showed the life of a Border Patrol agent on the U.S.-Mexico border. Jeff Winder, of the social change group The People United, mocked the Border Patrol’s advertising of life on the border, which showed agents on four-wheelers donning guns.

“It makes it sound like it’s all fun and games,? Winder said. Because hundreds die trying to cross the border every year, Winder said that attitude “is really disgusting.?

Moments after the video ended, some of the protesters revealed bright yellow caps with “Border Patrol? scrolled on them in black ink. Putting on their new headgear, they arrested other protesters, using yellow caution tape to bind their hands, and yelled for the so-called immigrants without proper documentation to get on the floor.

“You don’t look like you’re from here!? yelled one protester pretending to be a Border Patrol agent.

Border Patrol recruiters in the room reacted calmly, ushering other applicants out and then asking the protesters to leave, which they did.

A Charlottesville police officer said later that no one would be arrested for the protest.

“They’re U.S. citizens and they have the freedom to do that,? said Joseph Arata, a Border Patrol recruiter. “This is a hot-button item. We’re not here to get into politics.?

Arata said recruiters had already gotten more than 60 applications from recruiting at Charlottesville Fashion Square mall. He said they were hoping for 65 applicants as a result of the two events in Charlottesville - a number recruiters likely surpassed, he said. The agency is responding to a presidential mandate to add 6,000 agents to its force by the end of the year, Arata said, and it is holding recruiting events around the country.

Sue Frankel-Streit, who participated in the protest, said she hoped it would call attention to the illegal immigration issue and perhaps make recruits reconsider.

“If no one’s willing to fulfill a policy, then the policy isn’t really important,? she said.

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