WASHINGTON — Violence against illegal aliens by U.S. border agents has increased since the new immigration law went into effect a year ago, a coalition of Latino and farm-worker rights groups charged Friday.
The Rural Coalition, which includes 100 groups that monitor immigration issues, declared at a news conference that the problem has reached "alarming" proportions and that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has "unleashed a campaign to persecute undocumented workers."
INS officials discounted the charge, saying that no rash of abuse by border agents has occurred and that violence against aliens is coming at the hands of drug traffickers, smugglers and other criminals.
Coalition officials said they are assembling affidavits, photographs and other records on assaults and intend to present them to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to bring international pressure on the United States to enact reforms. However, officials said no statistics or lists of cases were yet available.
The dispute illustrates the difficulty in measuring the extent of alien abuse along the border, where violence is prevalent in some areas and many crimes go unsolved.
Carlos Marentes, a coalition spokesman, said the aliens' plight "should touch the conscience" of Americans "and embarrass the government, which demands respect for human rights internationally but which violates these basic rights in its own territory."
'Terrified,' She Says
Linda Wong of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said: "Violence against undocumented immigrants has always been there, but very little has been done about it because they have been terrified to file complaints against abusing officers."
The INS said that between October, 1986, and September, 1987, 144 physical confrontations involved agents and that most occurred when aliens attacked officers. Agency officials said the records on the number of complaints against officers were not immediately available.
Hugh Brien, who heads the INS border patrol, said there was "absolutely not" an escalation of violence.