The Border Action Network (BAN) is a member-based group that was formed in 1999 in Tucson, Arizona under the name Southwest Alliance to Resist Militarization (the name change occurred in September 2002). The organization’s purpose from its inception was “to ensure that those who are most impacted [i.e., illegal aliens] by border and immigration policies are at the forefront of movements calling for human dignity and civil rights and have the power to insert their voices into the local, regional and national policy debates that impact their lives on a daily basis.” BAN’s focus is on immigrants and border residents in Nogales, Douglas and Tucson, Arizona. Its work consists of an admixture of “grassroots community organizing, leadership development, litigation, and action.”
Advocating the dissolution of American borders, BAN calls for unchecked, unregulated migration into and out of the United States. This objective is founded on the premise that North, Central, and South America were wrongfully conquered by European invaders, and that consequently the United States is, at its root, an illegitimate entity with no right to delineate borders or to impose migration restrictions on anyone.
BAN blames current U.S. border policies for the deaths of hundreds of illegal immigrants, and for the civil rights violations of many more. “Stories of Border Patrol agents shooting and killing Mexican men as self-defense to alleged rock-throwing have become common place,” says BAN. “…Agents are known to use excessive force … And for Hispanics and Mexicans that live along the border, it is clear that the region has turned into a zone where people — citizens, legal residents and undocumented alike — are regularly denied fundamental civil rights. From the use of racial profiles, unnecessary questioning, intimidation and harassment, to speeding down neighborhood streets and endangering residents’ lives — it is time that we said enough is enough.”
BAN has recently filed lawsuits against what it calls “an ugly movement of armed, militia-style civilian groups” and “anti-immigrant, white supremacist groups” — such as American Border Patrol and Ranch Rescue — for their practice of detaining illegal aliens and calling government border agents to arrest them. Jennifer Allen, Director of BAN, said: ” It’s not their 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.”
In March 2002 BAN successfully orchestrated a campaign to prevent the construction of up to four privately run federal prisons for illegal aliens — which BAN dubbed “prisons for immigrants” — in Arizona and California.
In April 2004, BAN launched an initiative to collect thousands of signed postcards promoting the legalization of all illegal immigrants residing in the United States, as well as any others who “might come as guest workers” in the future. The organization delivered the postcards to Arizona Senator John McCain that summer.
Also in 2004, BAN campaigned, albeit unsuccessfully, “to defeat Arizona’s disastrous anti-immigration ballot initiative, Proposition 200.” Prop 200 was an Arizona state referendum requiring individuals to produce proof of citizenship before being permitted to register to vote or apply for public benefits.
When Tucson City Council member Steve Leal proposed, in September 2005, an initiative to prevent illegal aliens from running ice-cream businesses in his city, BAN protested on grounds that such an ordinance would have “unjustly penalized workers based on their immigration status.” BAN helped the ice cream workers’ union develop “a political strategy and … policy recommendations that would protect the community and respect the rights of immigrant workers.” At meetings with City Council members three months later, the union convinced the Council to rewrite the original ordinance and incorporate all of its recommendations.
Under the auspices of its “Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime!” campaign, in 2006 BAN took up the cause of two volunteers who worked for the open borders group No More Deaths; the pair had been arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol for medically evacuating from the Arizona desert three Mexicans who were attempting to illegally enter the United States in July 2005. “Their arrest and subsequent prosecution for providing humanitarian aid has shocked people of conscience around the world,” said BAN, which gathered “thousands of postcards to send to U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton to tell him to drop all charges.” BAN was supported in this endeavor by Amnesty International (AI).
In March 2014, BAN praised a Department of Homeland Security edict directing 21,000 U.S. border patrol officers to: (a) retreat and seek cover, rather than discharge their weapons, whenever illegal immigrants threw rocks at them; (b) keep their weapons holstered whenever drug smugglers were driving by or fleeing from the agents; and (c) avoid (on pain of penalty) making any effort to block the path of a vehicle being used in suspected wrongdoing.
BAN blames American capitalism and free markets for the economic woes that prompt many Mexicans to seek illegal entry into the United States. “Immigrants are today’s refugees of globalization policies like NAFTA that displace and destroy communities,” says BAN.
Organizations affiliated with BAN include the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (The Human Rights Coalition), Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Pan Left Productions.
BAN receives financial support from the Arizona Community Foundation and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.