Anselmo Delgado-Martinez served in the U.S. Army with many immigrants, people he says were trying to gain citizenship for themselves and their families.
So on Thursday afternoon, the retired sergeant first class joined a protest outside the U.S. Border Patrol station in Las Cruces in full uniform. He held an ACLU sign that read, “We the people.”
Groups from Las Cruces and Albuquerque said they organized the event to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, the actions of Border Patrol agents, and repeated, bipartisan approval in Congress for funding to increase militarization of the U.S./Mexico border. About 150 people attended.
Delgado-Martinez said many immigrants worry while on deployment that they’ll come home to find family members deported.
“It’s a travesty when they are in uniform and they can’t protest,” he said. “I just retired a couple of years ago, and I can represent them.”
And represent them Delgado-Martinez did. Midway through the protest about two dozen people, including Delgado-Martinez, blocked both entrances to the gated parking lot for employees at the Border Patrol station, preventing anyone from entering or leaving.
A man in a green pickup truck wearing civilian clothes tried to leave the Border Patrol station. He pulled up to the human barricade at the west entrance of the parking lot. The man got out of his vehicle, a cigar in his mouth. He said he had to get home to his children.
“You better let me the fuck out of here. I’m babysitting,” the man said while pointing his finger. When the protesters didn’t respond, the man said, “Get the fuck out of here. I’ll run your goddamn ass over.”
He threw up his hands, got back in his truck and drove up to the protesters. Then he grabbed what appeared to be a large wooden rod and got back out of the truck while Las Cruces Police Department officers approached. “God dammit!” the man shouted.
Delgado-Martinez stood directly in front of the man’s truck, his hands behind his back, and said nothing.
An LCPD officer told the man to get back in his truck, and he complied. Then the officer spoke to the protesters. After several minutes, most moved to let the man through.
Not Delgado-Martinez. He stood in the way and stared the man down again. An LCPD officer gently grabbed Delgado-Martinez by the arm. “It’s not worth it,” the officer said. Delgado-Martinez let the officer lead him to the side, and the man drove away.
Later, Delgado-Martinez said he wasn’t scared. He lost partial eyesight because of a bomb blast when he was on deployment. “This was nothing,” he said.
That was one of several tense moments during the protest, which ended peacefully and without any arrests or citations.
When the protesters first formed their barricades, a man in a white sport utility vehicle tried to enter the south entrance to the station’s parking lot, pulling right up to protesters holding a white sign. “Get out of the way of the government facility,” the driver said. Then he drove his truck through their sign and into the gated lot.
Later at that entrance, state Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, sat with other protesters blocking the entrance. When a man in a white pickup tried to leave, McCamley, wearing a black suit and red tie, stared him down. Delgado-Martinez sat next to him.
The man got out of his car. “I can’t leave?” he asked. He told the protesters he could arrest them before getting back in his truck and returning to the lot.
In an interview, McCamley said he joined the protest because he is concerned about the “door-to-door” raids federal immigration agents conducted in Doña Ana County in February, which he said sparked fear that led to thousands of children not showing up to school for a time and women being afraid to report crimes.
“No one should have to face these choices,” McCamley said. “Since they can’t come and speak out, someone needs to do that. Today, that someone is me.”
Four other elected officials joined the protest — Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education Members Maria Flores and Maury Castro, Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett, and Kevin Bixby, who won a seat on the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District Board earlier this week.
The protest began with speeches and chants at 4 p.m. on the sidewalk surrounding the parking lot of the Walgreens on North Main Street, which is adjacent to the Border Patrol station. Candles memorialized dozens of people who have died in confrontations with border agents. Brian Erickson, a border policy strategist with the ACLU, referred to those who have died in a speech, talking about the Border Patrol’s “military style policing… that led to the names you see on candles over here.”
“And none of the agents have been held accountable,” Erickson said.
Protesters generally stayed out of the way of motorists. At one point, a man in a dark green sedan waiting in line to exit the Walgreens parking lot blared his horn. Protesters chanted at him and clapped until he left.
Max Yeh drove from Hillsboro to attend the event. He said his goals were to protest federal immigration policy and make regional connections with the goal of hosting community conversations to build understanding.
“It’s a little drop in the bucket,” Yeh said. “A lot of drops in the bucket make a difference sometimes.”
After protesters, at LCPD’s urging, let several people in private vehicles leave the Border Patrol station, city police officers left the scene. Remaining Border Patrol employees went inside. Protesters gathered at the south entrance to the Border Patrol station parking lot to sing songs and chant.
“This is not going to be the last time we do this,” Allex Luna, an organizer with NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé), one of the groups that organized the event, told protesters. “What we did today was draw the line.”
For disclosure, the author of this article is dating CAFé’s executive director, Sarah Silva. Silva is on sabbatical and was not present at or involved in organizing Thursday’s protest. This article has been updated to reflect the presence at the protest of Flores and Garrett.