Jennifer Allen is an immigration and environmental activist who holds a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado. From 1995-98 she was a staffer with the Western Shoshone Defense Project, which sought to prevent mining companies from drilling for natural resources on tribal lands in the Southwestern United States. From 2001-11, Allen served as executive director of the Arizona-based Border Action Network (BAN), an immigrant-rights organization.
Complaining of abuses that anti-illegal-immigration activists were allegedly carrying out against unlawful border-crossers, Allen stated in December 2002: “It’s not their [the activists’] job to defend, to harass people, stalk people, injure people. That’s nobody’s job. They [illegal immigrants] have civil rights and human rights that take precedence over defending the country.”
Trumpeting BAN’s steadfast determination to “challenge the growth of the anti-immigrant movement in southern Arizona,” Allen in December 2003 announced that her organization was filing a civil lawsuit on behalf of the illegal aliens who had been detained and allegedly mistreated by a rancher named Roger Barnett, who presided over a 22,000-acre Arizona ranch just north of the Mexican border. During the previous four years, Barnett—along with his wife, Barbara Barnett, and another relative, Roger Barnett—had apprehended thousands of illegal aliens trespassing on his land and turned them over to the U.S. Border Patrol. According to Allen, such measures “have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for both migrants and community members along the Arizona/Mexico border.”
In 2005 Allen and BAN attempted to prevent the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) agency, which was in charge of administering the state’s nine million acres of trust lands, from renewing its then-expiring lease of 14,000 acres of grazing lands to Roger Barnett. Allen and BAN accused Barnett of having violated the terms of his existing lease contract by engaging in racially motivated violence and threats against some of the 12,000+ illegals whom he had apprehended on those lands. Demanding that “public officials … put an end to the hysteria and violence created by border vigilantes” like Barnett, Allen added: “It took the U.S. Congress forty years to proclaim lynching unlawful. It’s abhorrent that officials are reluctant to act on something so obvious, but we’re willing to keep the fight up for another forty years if that what it takes.”
In August 2005, shortly after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano had initiated a crackdown on illegal border-crossing and human trafficking activities, Allen complained that: “Police and sheriff’s departments across the country have been vocal against blurring the lines between themselves and immigration officers. People will be afraid to call in and report domestic violence or crimes, for fear that police will also ask about their immigration status.”
In November 2006, the New York Times reported that Allen and BAN were still scrutinizing Roger Barnett.
In December 2007, Allen announced that BAN had published a new report accusing Arizona police of committing “possible human rights violations” against illegal aliens. The alleged offenses included “illegal temporary detention,” “violation of the rights of due process,” “illegal stopping for violation of immigration laws,” and “psychological or verbal abuse.”
In April 2010, shortly after U.S. and Mexican authorities had broken up a human smuggling ring that had been operating along the border between Arizona and Mexico, Allen declared: “I think we’re getting absolutely mixed messages. I saw that just yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama said she wants to see immigration reform happen, and then we wake up this morning and we have ICE [Immigration & Customs Enforcement] raids intensively throughout the state of Arizona.” Allen also said that such aggressiveness by federal agents would inevitably cause illegal aliens to refrain from alerting law-enforcement to crimes they might witness. “If communities are afraid to call the police to let them know about criminal activity, criminal activity is going to go right to those neighborhoods,” she asserted.
In September 2010, Allen dismissed what she called “this whole myth of criminality” by immigrants, legal and illegal. “A safe community has a high immigrant population,” she emphasized.
In October 2011, Allen announced that she would be stepping down as executive director of BAN the following month, and that in January 2012 she would begin a six-month term as interim director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition’s Arizona chapter. Upon leaving BAN, Allen said she was most proud of the fact that she had been able to establish an organization composed mostly of illegal aliens. “While there may be fear,” she explained, “people still are willing to take the risks that are necessary to assert their human rights and assert their basic dignity,” and “to work to try to make our communities better for everybody.”
Since April 2013, Allen has served as the national director of Chispa, the League of Conservation Voters‘ Latino outreach program, where she works “to bring and build the voices of Latino communities to the fight against climate change.”
In 2016 Allen criticized the conservative Libre Initiative, which professes to “advanc[e] the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community.” Libre’s support for “free-market policies,” she said disparagingly, signaled that the group was opposed to federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and to other measures designed to limit climate change.
Further Reading: “Jennifer Allen” (LinkedIn.com); “Ranchers Accused of Impersonating Border Agents” (Star Tribune, 12-11-2003); “A Border Watcher Finds Himself Under Scrutiny” (NY Times, 11-22-2006); “U.S. Responds to Governors’ Illegal Immigration Appeals” (Los Angeles Times, 8-24-2005); “Report Claims Abuses by Police, Others of Illegal Immigrants” (Tucson Citizen, 12-11-2007); “Border Action’s Leader Is Leaving after Long Stint” (Tucson.com, 10-17-2011); “How Koch Brothers’ Libre Initiative Is Playing With Latino Voters” (TheStreet.com, 3-22-2016).