Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Hidden Courts, Hidden Injustices

Testimony from Deirde Roney and friends:

Here are our notes on our attempt to gain access to the secret tent courts at the bridge on 10/10/2019:
"Deirdre Roney, Darleen G and Rob R approached the secret tent courts. We spoke with immigration attorney Kenna Giffin who shared a wealth of information with us on the sidewalk. She ended our conversation when the guards appeared and she asked, are my clients here, they said something I didn’t hear and then she said, Oh that’s great, thank you and gave them a thumbs up and said she had to go see her clients.
Then we approached the three male guards at the entrance, Moreno, Diaz and Garza. They were wearing a uniform labeled, Paragon Security Systems. We asked to enter the courts to observe the proceedings. They asked if I was an attorney. I said yes. They asked if I had clients here. I said no. They said that we could not enter unless we were lawyers appearing with our clients, lawyers who had gone through an application and screening process. I said citizens cannot enter to observe? No they cannot, they answered. I asked whether journalists could get access. No, they answered.
They referred us to the Public Affairs office. I asked why they were referring us to a publicity person. Does that person have any authority over security measures? No, they answered. I said we want to talk with someone who has authority to grant access and who can explain why we can’t have it, because every other court I’ve been to in our country citizens and journalists can observe proceedings. They said that if we went to the Public Affairs office we could fill out paperwork and get screened and then maybe we could observe. I said, but you just told me that no one but lawyers can get access so why would they have application paperwork available for citizens and journalists? I don’t understand why we can’t enter and I don’t understand why are you referring me to a person who doesn’t have authority to grant access.
Deputy Garza said, I’m not going to go back and forth with you. I’m going to get my supervisor. Great, I said. After he left, I asked Deputy Moreno if Paragon Security Services was a private company. He said, yes. I said, why does a private company provide security for our public court system? He said he didn’t want to answer my questions anymore.
Deputy Douglas of the Federal Police Service appeared. I asked if we could enter the courts and observe the proceedings. He said there weren’t any proceedings happening today, all the courts were shut down because of what was happening on the bridge. [We'd just observed Kenna GIffin enter the secret tent courts on the information that her client was present and that they could proceed today.] He said that we could go to Harlingen if we want to observe court proceedings. I said I did not want to go to Harlingen. I want to observe these court proceedings.
Officer Douglas said that only lawyers with their clients can enter the courts. I said that in our country court proceedings are public everywhere else, citizens and journalists can enter and observe, why can’t they do so here. He said because of heightened security needs because the court is in a port of entry. I said who owns this land. He said the port authority. I pointed to the tents and said, these are courts not port facilities, right. He agreed. I said that in every other court I’ve been in the country it has been sufficient to protect everyone with metal detectors and wands and guards who pat people down. You are wearing your bulletproof vests and you all are armed with guns, just like court guards in other courthouses. What is different about these courts – not their location – but these courts?
Officer Douglas said that if we wanted to know more he would refer us to the Public Affairs office. I said, do they have authority over you? No, he said. Do they have the power to grant access to these courts? No, he said, but they can give you the paperwork to apply to get clearance and go through the process to enter these courts. I replied, you just told me that only lawyers with clients get access.
I asked, who is your supervisor, Officer Douglas? If you have a question or want clarity on something or need authority to do something, to whom do you report? I want to ask your supervisor why we can’t get access. He said, I report to Gary Weaver. Gary Weaver, I asked. Yes, Gary Weaver, he said. Where is he located, I asked. Officer Douglas pointed to the building next door to the court nearer to the bridge. Over there in that building, he said. I pointed to the building, that building right there: Mr. Gary Weaver is in that building right there? Yes, Officer Douglas said. For whom does Mr. Gary Weaver work? The CBP Port Authority, he answered. The CBP Port Authority, I asked, right there in that building? He said yes.
We went into the building Officer Douglas indicated and saw three customs and border patrol officers wearing bullet proof vests and armed. We asked to see Mr. Gary Weaver. All three officers said this building is a customs building not a port of authority border patrol building. In addition, they all said there is no Mr Gary Weaver here. I asked well where is the CBP Port Authority building. They said there are three and they are all several miles away. I said, well that’s weird because Officer Douglas just told us to come here into this building to talk to his supervisor, Mr. Gary Weaver.
One officer then said to another, “this has to do with the MFF”. When I repeatedly asked what MFF stood for the officers refused to tell me, repeatedly saying it stood for nothing and that they had to go."
So that was our experience trying to get into the tent courts.
Obviously, Officer Douglas lied to us. We googled CBP and Gary Weaver and we found a Gary Weaver CBP Technology Officer who won an award in 2017 and when he was located in Tucson AZ he was referenced in this article: https://tucson.com/news/local/border/video-clips-of-fatal-border-shooting-shown-at-agent-s/article_422854cf-26e3-59f2-b1d7-aed250221d8a.html."

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