Posted on May 11, 2006

Officials Disclaim Bulletin ‘Tipping’ Report

Sara A. Carter, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Cal.), May 11, 2006

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is refuting a Daily Bulletin report that the U.S. Border Patrol provided information to the Mexican government about the whereabouts of civilian border watch groups.

“Today’s report by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, ‘U.S. tipping Mexico to Minuteman patrols,’ is inaccurate,” read the statement issued Tuesday evening. “Border Patrol does not report activity by civilian, non-law enforcement groups to the government of Mexico.”

Kristi Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, would not elaborate on the agency’s statement other than to say the U.S. gives information to Mexican officials under the rules of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, which provides foreign nationals being detained by a government the right to consular access.

“This is the same agreement that protects United States citizens when they travel to foreign countries,” according to the statement.

An August 2005 document, “Third Report on the Activities of Vigilantes” — posted on Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site — suggests U.S. officials were giving out more details than required by the Vienna Convention. Part of that information was the location of U.S. citizens participating in volunteer border patrols.

The Daily Bulletin reported on the contents of that document and two others on the Mexican Web site in a story published in Tuesday’s editions.

Mexican consulates also went beyond the boundaries of the Vienna Convention, asking U.S. Border Patrol officials to provide them with information on “vigilantes” operating along the U.S. border, according to the August 2005 document.

Some of the information cited in the Mexican document originally was given only to U.S. Border Patrol and law enforcement officials, border watch organizers said.

“Nobody but law enforcement and Border Patrol knew where we were at,” said Andy Ramirez, chairman of the Chino-based nonprofit group Friends of the Border Patrol. “So how is our base address on a Mexican government document dated last August? Nobody, not even media, had this information.”

Ramirez said he revealed the location of his base camp only to local and federal officials. The Mexican document gives the exact location of his group’s site, which was on private property near San Diego.

According to Ramirez, the group had no encounters at that site with undocumented migrants, which would have been the only cause for that information to be revealed under the Vienna Convention.

On Monday, Mario Martinez, a U.S. Customs and Border spokesman, told the Daily Bulletin that when illegal immigrants are apprehended in the U.S., they have the right, under the Convention, to be represented by their country’s consulate office and to information regarding their apprehension.

Information contained in a Border Patrol agent’s field report, which is filed when a person is caught, would reveal the location of the detainee and therefore the area where the volunteer group is operating, Martinez said.

Martinez did not deny that information on the border volunteers was being shared with the Mexican government. He added that the group’s whereabouts also were identified by numerous media outlets.

However, the Mexican report also contains specific information on civilian groups operating much farther inside the United States.

For example, the document notes that 50 Minuteman volunteers work in Chicago, focusing mainly on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Minuteman volunteers said specific information — such as the number of volunteers and their plans — could have been provided only by law enforcement officials at that time. The document credits the various Mexican consul general offices in the U.S. with providing the information to the Mexican Foreign Secretary for the reports.

“How did they know the number of volunteers in Chicago? And why should the Mexican government care?” asked Connie Hair, spokeswoman for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps in Washington, D.C.