Category Archives: Border Patrol

Friends of Friendship Park to Unveil Alternative Design to Assure Dignified and Humane Public Access to Border Park

Coalition Deems Border Patrol Plans Inadequate and Inhumane

WHEN: Wednesday, February 9, 5:30 p.m.
WHAT: Press Conference Unveiling of Proposed Design for Friendship Park
WHERE: Marina Vista Community Center, 1075 8th St., Imperial Beach CA

The Friends of Friendship Park Coalition will unveil their alternative architectural design for San Diego’s historic border park in a press conference at the beginning of a public outreach Open House scheduled by San Diego Border Patrol on Wednesday evening, February 9.

Working collaboratively with the Friends of Friendship Park, celebrated San Diego architect James Brown, principal at Public Art & Architecture (, has developed a proposal for Friendship Park that would celebrate bi-national friendship as a necessary part of true security.

“Jim Brown’s design for Friendship Park aptly captures the essence of bi-national friendship, while addressing every legitimate security concern that San Diego Border Patrol officials have shared with us across months of consultations,” stated John Fanestil, Executive Director at the San Diego-based Foundation for Change and a leader in the coalition.

At present Friendship Park features security infrastructure and arbitrary enforcement practices resulting in public confusion about whether and how the public can visit the park. A limited public access area created by San Diego Border Patrol has offered park visitors an experience that many liken to visiting someone in jail.

Formerly, families from San Diego, Riverside and Los Angeles would come to the park to visit with family members who had often traveled for days from the interior of Mexico for a family reunion. The present arrangement prevents families like these – and other visitors to the park – from comfortably talking with each other. Family members, who sometimes have not seen each other in years, are routinely turned away after a 30-minute visit.

San Diego Border Patrol will have on display at the Open House proposed modifications to the park which do nothing to address these problems. In addition, Border Patrol plans would place the Boundary Monument – an historic marker recognizing the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo at the end of the U.S.-Mexico War – on the south side of the border fence, leaving it inaccessible to the U.S. public.

“Proposals coming from San Diego Border Patrol continue to violate the spirit of Friendship Park,” stated Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee and a leader in the coalition. “By ensuring that visitors can see each other, touch each other and converse freely in a dignified and orderly manner, our coalition’s proposal honors the original purpose of this historic border park.”

Click here for a slideshow of Friendship Park


John Fanestil,, 619-823-6223
Jill Holslin,, (619) 804-8030
Jim Brown,, (619) 682-4083

The Friends of Friendship Park is a coalition of leaders and organizations promoting orderly and dignified public access to Friendship Park, San Diego’s historic park on the US-Mexico border.
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>Border Patrol confronts park patrons at Friendship Park

>San Diego Union-Tribune Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meeting place sealed off
Border patrol agents prohibit access to Friendship Park

by Penni Crabtree

SOUTH COUNTY — In the end, immigration activists never made it to the site of yesterday’s planned demonstration, a plaza dubbed Friendship Park that sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean at Border Field State Park.

For the first time, Border Patrol agents formally sealed off access on the U.S. side to the plaza, for years a popular meeting place on the U.S.-Mexico border for families to visit through the fence.

The Department of Homeland Security announced late last year that it will prohibit all public access to the park where a secondary wall is under construction. Since then, the plaza has become a symbolic touchstone for those who debate border enforcement policies.

Until recently, federal officials had planned to have a gate in the secondary fence that would have allowed people on either side to visit.

“This is a treasured piece of the San Diego landscape where people meet for peaceful reasons,” said John Fanestil, executive director of the Foundation for Change, a nonprofit social-justice group involved in immigration issues. “The fencing will change that landscape.”

In recent weeks, Fanestil and others formed the Friends of Friendship Park Coalition to save the park and have received support from elected officials, including Reps. Bob Filner and Susan Davis, both San Diego Democrats. Filner, Davis and other federal lawmakers from border states sent a Feb. 8 letter to President Barack Obama asking him to revisit the construction plans.

Yesterday, about 125 park supporters marched the mile or so on muddy roads and along the beach to Friendship Park. A handful of people opposed to illegal immigration also were there.

A phalanx of Border Patrol agents in off-road vehicles blocked access to the plaza entrance, causing demonstrators on both sides of the issue to gather below the bluff.

The spot was not without poignant symbolism, a strip of beach pierced with metal pilings that form the existing border fence, which runs into the ocean for a few feet before giving way. A child could easily swim between the two countries.

On the south side of the pilings, Mexican families strolled on the beach, bought roasted ears of corn from a vendor and leaned against the fence to watch happenings on the other side.

On the north side of the pilings, Friendship Park supporters held an ecumenical religious service, complete with a choir. Opponents of illegal immigration tried to disrupt it with a siren-blasting bullhorn and shouted slogans such as, “Go home, illegals!”

One wore a cap with the logo of the Minutemen, an anti-illegal-immigration group.

Since the ban on public access to Friendship Park was declared, a few dozen immigration activists have continued to gather there weekly to hold religious services and other activities.

Yesterday, two activists were detained and later released without charge after they tried to approach the fence against orders from Border Patrol agents.

“This is the first day they’ve chosen to enforce the ban on public access,” Fanestil said. “Before, they tolerated our presence. Clearly they will tolerate us no more.”

Fanestil said he and other members of the park coalition plan to meet and discuss plans for future park actions.

Mark Endicott, public-affairs officer for the U.S. Border Patrol, said no public access will be authorized between the primary and secondary border fences.

The decision to impose the ban is “based on our border security mission and to assure the safety of border agents and the public,” he said.

Penni Crabtree: (619) 293-1237;

Photo Credit: Eduardo Contreras/Union Tribune

Aide: Border Patrol to build border fence at park

Article published by, San Jose Mercury News, Monterey Herald, Modesto Bee

By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writer

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

7 January 2009 18:50 PST San Diego, CA (AP)

The Border Patrol will close a popular park on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean to make way for a triple fence along the Mexican border, a legislative aide and activists said Wednesday.

The Border Patrol had been mum on whether Friendship Park would be affected by plans to erect more than 670 miles of barriers along the southern U.S. border. The park draws big crowds from both sides, where people chat through a chain-link fence separating Imperial Beach, Calif., and Tijuana, Mexico. They exchange kisses, tamales, even communion wafers.

By May, the half-acre plaza inside Border Field State Park is expected to be gone, replaced by three fences separated by about 125 feet, according to Jonathan Hardy, an aide to state Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego.

Hardy said he attended a meeting on Tuesday in which Border Patrol agents, led by the San Diego sector chief Mike Fisher, told legislative aides and community activists that the agency will build the fence at the plaza, which was dedicated in 1971 by then-first lady Patricia Nixon.

He said officials showed them backhoes that had already begun breaking up the cement plaza to make way for a dirt patrol road that will be sandwiched between the fences.

A Border Patrol spokesman, Mark Endicott, said he was unaware of any decision on the park’s fate. He said Fisher was unavailable to comment.

The fence will extend to the beach, where the border is now marked by tall poles with spaces big enough for adults to slip their arms through, said the Rev. John Fanestil, a United Methodist pastor who was also at the meeting.

“There will be no public access, it could not have been more absolute,” said Fanestil, who has offered weekly communion through the chain-link fence. “Their language was that they were demolishing the plaza and then they’ll reconstruct it with a road.”

In November, U.S. Reps. Susan Davis and Bob Filner, both San Diego Democrats, and seven state and local elected officials wrote President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team to urge that the park be kept open, calling it a powerful symbol of goodwill between the U.S. and Mexico. They are awaiting a response.

A spokesman for Davis, Aaron Hunter, said the Border Patrol’s decision to close the park was disappointing.

“We have a new administration. This decision was made by an administration that’s on its way out,” he said.

On the park’s Mexican side, there is also a cement plaza, which sits next to a bullring. One group holds cross-border yoga classes.

Parts of the 800-acre Border Field State Park will remain open, including equestrian trails, according to those who attended the meeting.

The park is next to “Smuggler’s Gulch,” a gorge that is being filled with nearly 1.9 million tons of dirt to make way for fencing. The area was overrun by illegal immigrants until U.S. authorities launched a crackdown in the 1990s that pushed people to remote mountains and deserts.

Border Patrol officials told the group Tuesday that drugs have been passed through the fence at Friendship Park and that the agency lacked resources to patrol the crowds, said Hardy, the legislative aide.

“In their mind, it’s supposed to be a controlled, secure area,” Hardy said. “They feel they don’t have the manpower to allow large groups.”

Good Cop, Bad Cop: Detention and Its Discontents

Are We Being Fair to the Border Patrol?

by Jill Holslin

SAN DIEGO-TIJUANA | On Thursday, Sept 18, 2008 Border Meetup Director Dan Watman was detained by the Border Patrol in Friendship Park, a small concrete plaza and public park located along the border fence in Border Field State Park, San Diego County, California, the site where the U.S.-Mexico border fence descends into Pacific Ocean. Watman was conducting a press conference in preparation for a two-day binational event co-sponsored by Border Meetup and San Diego Coastkeeper and the Mexican environmental organization Proyecto Fronterizo de Educación del Medio Ambiente, and scheduled for the following weekend, Sept 20-21. The event included a beach clean up, kite flying festival, cross-border yoga and meditation at Playas de Tijuana and Border Field State Park. His crime? One of the five Mexican journalists who joined Watman at the border fence for the press conference passed Dan his business card through the fence. According to the CBP, the passage of unregulated goods through the border fence constitutes a customs violation. Yet, if Dan Watman’s actions truly constituted a crime, why was he not arrested? While it is easy to read this situation through the familiar narrative of the innocent man victimized by an abuse of state power, are we being fair to the border patrol when we portray them as “bad cop?”

Well, it turns out that federal laws governing what can and cannot be done at the border fence are not entirely clear. Indeed, as anyone knows who has tried to cross back across the border into the U.S. with an unregulated American granny smith apple in their backpack, the passage of unregulated goods from Mexico to the U.S. is expressly forbidden. Yet, many other activities at the border fence can subject the innocent wayfarer to arbitrary and random questioning, harassment and detention.

When Dan Watman reached out and took the journalist’s business card that had been slipped though an opening in the border fence that day, the border patrol agent on the scene was prompted to enforce this policy forbidding unregulated goods. As Watman noted in an official statement, the agent asked to see what had been passed through the fence, and Watman complied, showing him the business card. The agent then asked Dan to step away from the fence. Dan asked why he needed to do that: as far as he understood, it was not illegal to talk to people at the fence. Then Watman explained further that he was conducting a press conference and thus needed to remain within conversational distance with the journalists gathered on the other side. At this point, the situation escalated as the border patrol agent threatened Watman with arrest if he refused again to step away from the fence. In an effort to clarify the law, Dan pointed to the contradictory situation in progress: “I told him that he could arrest me right where I was for passing something through the fence. And so, why, if I stepped away from the fence, would I no longer be arrested?” The agent then asked Watman to place his hands on his head and remain silent, and Watman was then detained while three additional border patrol vehicles and 8-10 agents arrived on the scene. When Watman asked again why he was being ordered to step away from the fence, one of the agents acknowledged that Watman had done nothing illegal in gathering with a group at the fence: “You are right. You have a right to be here. You just can’t pass things through the fence.” After 20 minutes, the agents left and Dan Watman, undaunted, continued on with his press conference.

What Dan Watman’s brief detention, and many others like it illustrate, is that enforcement at the border fence can be random and arbitrary, raising questions about the shaky legal foundations of our basic civil rights in border spaces. In an effort to clarify the law regarding gatherings at Friendship Park, I recently spoke to Mark Endicott, Public Affairs liaison for the San Diego Sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. When I asked him if there was an explicit policy preventing people from standing next to the border fence and chatting with people in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Endicott affirmed that as a public park, the purpose of Friendship Park was to allow people to gather and enjoy themselves, and there was no policy preventing that. Endicott added that he had heard of no instances of agents telling people to stand away from the fence.

Yet, such instances are commonplace in Border Field State Park. I myself have been interrupted mid-conversation and asked to step away from the fence on at least three different occasions in the past several months by border patrol agents who then explained to me that it was easier to do their job if I wasn’t talking to people through the fence. According to Christian Ramirez, National Coordinator of Project VOICE, the American Friends Service Committee immigrant rights initiative, there has recently been a significant number of complaints about random detentions in this area, specifically, from the ranches out near Border Field State Park. And so, this left me wondering once again, what exactly is the law in this case?

The answer to this riddle is a little troubling for anyone concerned with civil rights in the United States. Mark Endicott cited a little-known statute passed in 1996, called the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 287, recently named a “Constitution Free Zone” by the ACLU. Under this act, immigration officers have the authority to stop, question, detain and search anyone within 100 miles of any U.S. border—without a warrant. When I asked him what might warrant such questioning, Endicott insisted that agents must act upon “probable cause” before conducting a search. Yet, Endicott didn’t offer specific instances of probable cause, suggesting instead that “consent” might authorize questioning and detention.

It seems to me that we are asking too much of our border patrol agents, already under tremendous pressure and facing daily assault in dangerous sectors of the border fence, to simply use their own judgment to enforce border security. In the absence of clear policies from the federal government, border patrol agents are being asked to play “bad cop” while the Department of Homeland Security earns high praise for sealing the border with a costly and ineffective border fence.

Christian Ramirez affirmed to me that indeed, there has been a shift in the past three years of the Bush Administration. In the past, Border Patrol was always willing to meet with the community. Back when AFSC was contesting the transit checks on the trolley, there was room for negotiation. But, says Ramirez, Border Patrol is not interested in having a dialogue now. Ramirez cites Chertoff’s waiver of laws as the reason for this shift. “As soon as Chertoff started to use his powers to waive all laws because he didn’t want to delay this fence project, that’s when Border Patrol really started to change.”

According to Ramirez, this shift is a strong indication that DHS is asking Border Patrol to do something that is nearly impossible. The waiver of laws, combined with vague and ambiguous border enforcement mechanisms leave border patrol agents in a difficult position. They are charged with the task of enforcing border security: “to detect, apprehend and deter illegal entry.” Yet, in the absence of clear laws and policies, it is difficult if not impossible to accomplish this goal effectively.

Increased Harassment at San Diego-Tijuana Border Fence

North County Times, 6 Aug 2008, By Edward Sifuentes

A prominent immigrant rights activist was detained Tuesday for several hours by U.S. Border Patrol agents in San Diego for allegedly paying an illegal immigrant to cross the border.

He was later released with no charges filed against him, a spokesman for the agency said.

Christian Ramirez, the national immigrants’ rights coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker human rights organization, said he was stopped and questioned at about 4 p.m. by agents at Border Field State Park near the border.

Ramirez was later taken to the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station, where he was held until about 10 p.m.

Read here for the rest of the article