A Southern California activist against border patrol abuse is speaking out today about her own recent ordeal. A local immigrant rights group traveled to Nogales, Arizona for a bi-national action to raise awareness of the recent killing of a migrant by federal agents near that border entry. The activist claims she was detained and abused while in custody while crossing the border to denounce this very type of treatment.
Shena Gutierrez says she was handcuffed, roughed up, sexually abused, and threatened while being detained after attempting to cross into Mexico at the Nogales, Arizona port of entry.
Just three years ago, her husband Jose Gutierrez found himself in a similar predicament. He was tasered by border patrol agents while attempting to enter the U.S. He was left in a coma for several weeks and continues to suffer from seizures and other medical problems.
The incident with her husband changed Shena's life and she began to dedicate much of her free time to advocate on behalf of undocumented immigrants.
Although she's crossed the border countless times, her latest experience on Saturday, May 24 was harrowing.
Gutierrez, a resident of Hesperia, was in Nogales, Arizona for a rally to raise the issue of border patrol violence and the treatment of migrants in U.S. Detention centers. While attempting to cross into Mexico, she says a female agent took offense to her shirt. It read: Truth, Accountability, and Justice. Stop Border Patrol Brutality. In between the type is an image of her unconscious husband.
Gutierrez says this set the border agent off and led to questions the activist says she didn't have to answer.
"I told her, 'I don't have to tell you anything.' And she said, 'Are you going to be difficult with me? I can detain you for the whole day.'"
Gutierrez was detained and her voice grew louder as it appeared she was being delayed for political reasons.
A supervisor walked in to the office to ask about the commotion. While questioning Gutierrez, he noticed her shirt.
Gutierrez was released but on her return to the U.S. through the same port of entry, was stopped for questioning again. She became frustrated and after being released a second time refused to leave the station until she was given the names of the agents who harassed her.
Agent after agent refused to volunteer the names of the offending agents. Still, Gutierrez refused to leave and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervisor informed her she was trespassing on federal property.
Gutierrez was then questioned by the Nogales Police Department. After hearing her complaint, one officer offered some advice.
Gutierrez remained steadfast. At this time, about a dozen members of the immigrant rights group she had traveled with, arrived from the Mexican side to offer their support.
CBP officials detained most of them. Gutierrez was detained for a third time that afternoon.
She was put in a detention room and the same female agent who had questioned her earlier that afternoon gave what she described as an invasive and abusive body search.
She became terrified as her experience began to remind her of the case of Anastasio Hernandez, a San Diego resident who died after a confrontation with border agents at San ysidro.
Gutierrez says a female Agent Vazquez, which is the only information she was able to get, became more aggressive and abusive.
After several phone calls and emails, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was unavailable for comment.
Gutierrez says she was charged with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing on federal property and obstructing a federal investigation. She says it's part of a federal effort to discredit and discourage her activism. She plans to return to Arizona to fight the charges.
You can follow Ernesto Arce on Twitter: @ReporterArce