Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

I do not think there are words in the English language that could express how ashamed I felt on the evening of Friday, April 16, 2010, in front of my workplace. Handcuffed and sitting on the ground like one would tie a hog or a wild animal, my soul searched for answers from beyond. It was getting chilly and as I sat on the ground, hands secured behind my back, the cold was taking hold of me physically and spiritually. I was without faith but yet I had hope — hope that justice would prevail and injustice fail and be dealt with properly.

I work for Catholic Charities of Wayne County, operating an outreach program called La Casa in the village of Sodus. That Friday night, I received a call about a woman who was in distress and looking for me at the office. Just as I arrived and the woman ran out from the porch to meet me, I noticed the flashing light of a Sodus police car. I walked over to meet her and the officer. He told me to tell the woman that she was under arrest.

My ears were working in two languages trying to make sense of the situation, and I tried to defuse the situation for both of them. Afterward, I walked her to the officer’s patrol car and returned to my own car, when another officer waved at me to come to him.

The officer who waved me over was a Border Patrol agent who began asking where was I born (Mexico) and what was my citizenship (I am a naturalized U.S. citizen). I asked why he was taking this increasingly intrusive line of questioning with me. He then asked for my identification, but still would not tell me why he was questioning me.

A female Border Patrol agent arrived and also asked for my ID. She was more aggressive, saying I would be arrested if I did not provide identification. I continued to say I had ID but wanted to know why I was being questioned. Then she took out those cold, humiliating hand restraints, and she and the first agent handcuffed me behind my back.

The first agent reached into my pockets and removed everything. His hands touched me — including my genitals — as he searched for anything else. I was so ashamed, and by now some community members were out witnessing my shame. Charlie, a longtime friend and neighbor vouched for me, but nothing could undo what had happened.

I sat in handcuffs in the chilly evening for about 30 minutes. Humiliated by powers that have gone rogue, I just could not find a justifiable reason for what was happening. I thought, "How much more do I have to do? How many times do I have to recite an oath for this nation? How many more times will I be targeted for having been born brown?"

A Border Patrol supervisor arrived, and continued questioning me. I replied to his questions. He talked with the two BP agents that handcuffed me then, the BP supervisor returned to me and told me I would be released.

The incident ended with me going home feeling less than what I am — a United States citizen. The sad part of this incident is that it is only one shame in a sea of humiliations. This rogue power is doing this throughout New York state and the rest of the nation.

Peter Mares

Sodus

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