Jenn Budd: Former US Border Patrol Agent

Jenn Budd, a former senior patrol agent for the US Border Patrol, met with us earlier this month.

Jenn’s life as a border patrol agent turned around completely when she began to speak out at Campo BP Station regarding the drug smuggling operation that her boss organized. She found herself alone, at 3AM, in a hail of gunfire after being commanded to patrol the area where she had seen drugs coming in. The occurrence of this gunfire and her orders to be there lead to her being offered a higher position at sector headquarters, in exchange for her silence.

She turned her badge and weapon in the next day. “You have to sell your soul at one point to just do the job.”

Today, her life consists of speaking out against those agencies that have harmed asylum seekers/migrants/immigrants, speaking out against an administration that has created a crisis via policies, volunteering at a shelter in San Diego, writing for Souther Border Community Coalition, and an ambassadorship for Define American (a “nonprofit media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.”) The full interview we have with her is a developing video piece.

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Building Community: Contra Viento Y Marea (Against All Odds)

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Ernesto winds down from the day at Contra Viento y Marea Comedor. He arrived in Tijuana on November 21st, 2018 with the migrant caravan that left Honduras on October 21st. He had always wanted to excel in his education, but the current state of his country did not have that opportunity for him. In his words, “Falta de oportunidades de estudio, porque soy un joven que busca oportunidades de superarme.” At first, he was seeking asylum in the United States; as time went on and more people were being denied and deported back to Central America, he decided to not pursue further for fear of returning to his homeland.
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Contra Viento y Marea, a community space in Tijuana, emerged from a series of repressive government acts against the migrant/asylum seeking community. The full story can be read on their website “contravientomareatj.com”. Today, it serves as a community diner, shelter, and community center. There is a garden on the roof, alongside a few tents where volunteers, migrants and collective-members reside.
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Tents pitched on the roof. The growing number of asylum seekers, migrants, and volunteers has turned the roof space into an area for residency as well as gardening.
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The start of a garden on the roof of Contra Viento y Marea. Volunteers from Jardin Lemniscata and the Contra Viento y Marea collective have started this gardening effort with the goal of “integrating the individual with the ecosystem to foment sustainable practices that prevent the unconscious, unmeasured growth of urbanization.”
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A hallway Inside Contra Viento y Marea. Artwork by @ashlukadraws on Instagram.
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A volunteer at Contra Viento Y Marea sweeps the floor after dinner is served at the communal kitchen/shelter space.
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Flowers grow among the concertina wire next to the border wall at Friendship Park.
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On the beaches at Playas De Tijuana, the border wall sits, corroded. “No obstacle can stop us from reaching our dreams. We are Mexicans. We are unstoppable.”
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A tattered art piece, that used to be an American flag, stays tied to the border wall. Reinforcement that was installed on the US side in March, can be seen behind the bottom half of the flag.

Police Oversight: Update On SB 1421 Progress

On January 1st, 2019, SB 1421 went into effect. On paper, it was supposed to “lift the veil of secrecy” on police misconduct records that included sexual assault, lying during an investigation, falsification of reports, shootings, use of force, in-custody deaths, and other forms of misconduct. These kinds of records have already been public for years in many other states.

 
In application, this was met with pushback from police & sheriff unions across California. They tried to argue that the law should only be applicable to records made after the law went into effect, they tried to argue that police officers have “special vested secrecy rights in California that could never be taken away”, there were other arguments but judges struck them down.

 
Santa Ana Police Department tried to destroy the records, but a petition we organized and received support from the ACLU, media organizations, and community members sent a clear message to the department.

 
On April 23rd, the 90th day of the Santa Ana Police Department’s 90-day extension (used to process the record request), they let me know that they needed 120 more days.
Today, we became the first ones to review records that have undergone the required redaction process.

This post is about the small victories.

Here’s a selfie I took in Tijuana the day US CBP agents shot tear gas at everyone in proximity.

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Documenting: Anti-SB54 Rally

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Mikey Pesci, whose father brought him to the rally, sits alone.
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Alexys Quero walks with protestors and is verbally assaulted.
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An onlooker claps from her vehicle in support of the marchers.
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Alexys Quero expresses himself in front of the Anti-SB 54 demonstrators.
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Alexys Quero is confronted by protestors.
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A demonstrator who identified himself as “America”. Prior to this photo being taken, “America” would ask me “Hey mexican, can you take my picture?”

Where They Walk: Scouting A Migration Trail With Border Angels

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A gate with a bullet-ridden sign marks the trailhead for a path in the desert. People migrating from south of the border pass through here.
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A cross and water gallon sit in the desert along the path as symbols for hope & life.
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Perched on a rock, a first aid kit, toe warmer and tampons wait to be used.
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US military presence at the border. Concertina wire being installed on the wall. Half a mile down, the wall stops.

Photo Series: Documenting A National Emergency

With the declaration of a “national emergency” from the White House, we set out to find out what that looks like on any given day.

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The view through the border fence on Playas De Tijuana, looking towards San Diego, during the National Emergency.
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A couple walks along the beach in Playas De Tijuana during the National Emergency.
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Construction workers step into Mexico through a panel they removed during the National Emergency.
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A construction worker ties string onto a spool through the border wall panel his team has removed during the National Emergency. US Customs and Border Patrol is nowhere in sight.
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A section of the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. The art reads “What about the Mexican dream?”
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Concertina wire as seen through the border wall on Playas De Tijuana.
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A border patrol vehicle seen late at night through the border wall near Friendship Park.
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Razor wire as seen through the border wall on Playas De Tijuana.

Frontlines: Migrant Caravan

Migrants from the Benito Juarez Sports Complex shelter in Zona Norte, Tijuana organized a march in order to demand to be processed for asylum, Sunday Nov. 25. 

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The march started after leaders of the caravan held a prayer using megaphones. Mexican federal police blocked the entrance to Puente El Chaparral, a bridge that pedestrians and automobiles use to arrive at the border-crossing area. As the migrants approached the police line, a caravan organizer told the group to stop walking. 

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“If we will be crossing, we will be crossing in peace,” he said.

The marchers stopped and gave thanks to the Mexican state for sheltering them, sang the Mexican national anthem, gave a solidarity cheer with those who participated in the International Day of Action march in San Diego, all while waiting for the police to let through.

After about an hour of waiting, caravan organizers decided to go around the blockade, down a street that runs parallel to the inaccessible bridge. Police immediately began pushing people down with their shields. The migrants gained momentum as the police continued to use force against womxn, childrxn, and journalists. 

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The migrants crossed the Tijuana riverbed, helping each other keep steady so as to not fall into the water. They arrived at the car port of entry where Mexican military troops watched from above.

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The group I was with made their way to the edge of the large parkway that makes up the border entry point. Four migrants scaled the wall that divided Mexico and USA. US forces on the opposite side pointed a high caliber rifle at the young men. The migrant group then sought another area of the border fence.

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The migrant group reached another section of the border crossing point, opened the fence and continued through. I was stopped by riot police and not let through. One officer hit me repeatedly with his shield.

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During my walk back the way I had came, I witnessed an officer, who was giving orders earlier, continuously beat and harass a migrant. A Mexican checkpoint official alerted the officer that he had a camera on him and the officer ceased to hit the migrant. 

Mexican federal police then sealed the border car port leading into the US. Soon, US Department of Homeland Security Special Response Team forces and US military appeared and began to install razor wire, completely sealing the border and announcing that any unauthorized person will be met with lethal force.

I made my way to meet the group of migrants who were being shot with tear gas and rubber bullets through the border fence by US forces. Mexican federal police rallied them up and forced them back into Tijuana city limits. The final image was the last one I could capture before the tear gas effect became too much for my senses.

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