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Trial Begins for Faith Leaders, Veterans Arrested at the Border

Supporters to hold solidarity rally at Courthouse

People with banners at the Love Knows No Borders action in San Diego
Photo: Nathaniel Doubleday / AFSC

San Diego, CA (October 23, 2019) On October 28, four people – who were arrested during a protest and ceremonial blessing led by faith leaders at the U.S.-Mexico border – will face trial. They were among the 30 people who were arrested near the International Friendship Park in San Diego at an event called Love Knows No Borders. More than 400 people of faith, veterans, and supporters gathered at the border in support of migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. The four are charged with noncompliance with lawful orders.

There will be a rally in support of the defendants outside the Edward J. Schwartz United States Courthouse starting at noon, at 221 West Broadway in San Diego. The trial will be at 1:30 in Department 2C, and a press conference will be held in the same location outside the courthouse immediately after the trial concludes.

“Our clients were exercising their first amendment right to assemble and speak out against injustice, and those injustices have only continued” said Coleen Cusack, one of the attorneys helping to coordinate their legal defense. “Earlier this month, another person died in ICE custody, right here in San Diego. There is a certain irony to the fact that ICE and CBP agents can cause irreparable harm to migrants with impunity, but these activists are facing a penalty for speaking out against this abuse.”

The Love Knows No Borders action was led by people from numerous religious traditions, including those from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Indigenous communities, many expressing how their faith called them to take part. They were calling on the U.S. to respect the human right to migrate, end the militarization of border communities, and end the detention and deportation of migrants. In the short term, they were calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Defendants include combat veterans Wendy Barranco and Brittany DeBarros, members of About Face: Veterans Against the War; Rev. Jorge Bautista, Associate Minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo – United Church of Christ; and Rae Abileah, Jewish clergy (ordained Kohenet) and member of AFSC’s West executive committee.

 “As a combat veteran, Latina, and Indigenous woman, I stand strongly against the militarization of our borders and the human rights violations perpetuated against migrants in our names,” explains Barranco. “I strongly encourage others everywhere to take a stand, intervene, abolish ICE and CBP, and close the camps immediately.”

The defendants are represented by attorneys Coleen Cusack, Thomas Matthews, Alex Landon, and Geneviéve Jones-Wright.

"I continue to be dismayed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is going forward with this case,” said Geneviéve L. Jones-Wright, Legal Director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), a research, community organizing, and public policy hub dedicated to advancing the full economic, social, and civic inclusion of refugees and Muslims in the region. “Prosecuting veterans and clergy for protesting the inhumane and horrific conditions inside the detention facilities at our borders, instead of placing the focus where it belongs – on the facilities and government agencies that partner with them – is not only misguided but a miscarriage of justice.”

Love Knows No Borders was organized by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that has worked with migrants and refugees for over 100 years.


The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.