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AFSC calls for immediate release of colleague detained at border action

AFSC staff member Matthew Leber arrested by Border Patrol agents in San Diego. Photo: / AFSC

UPDATE: AFSC's Matthew Leber was released shortly after 3pm PST on December 11, 2018 from Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. No charges have been filed. Matthew is safe and with his colleagues.

Original press release follows:

Organizer violently detained by Border Patrol has not been released 

San Diego, CA (December 11, 2018) – Matthew Leber, an organizer with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Love Knows No Borders: A moral call for migrant justice week of action, was detained by Border Patrol yesterday while participating in a peaceful direct action. He has not yet been released. 

Video of Leber being violently detained by Border Patrol can be viewed here.   

“Matthew Leber played the role of a peaceful organizer supporting the faith leaders who approached the border wall from the U.S. side in prayer,” said Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary of AFSC, in a statement. “For this, he was targeted with violent arrest and detained by Border Patrol. 

“The American Friends Service Committee unequivocally stands behind Matthew, a trusted colleague who we deeply respect for the skills he brings to the work. He was clearly targeted and wrongfully arrested while supporting faith leaders engaging in nonviolent protest, and has reportedly been charged with assaulting an officer. We demand his immediate release. 

“Matthew participated in the Love Knows No Borders action to stand with migrants and bring attention to the immoral structural violence they face at the militarized border and in detention. So many people have been taken to these inhumane detention facilities where we know people are horribly mistreated.  

“We believe Matthew is being held in the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Substation, which is notoriously aggressive against migrants. We are calling on supporters to call the station at 619-628-2900 and ask for Matthew Leber’s immediate release.” 

More than 400 people of faith and supporters gathered in Border Field State Park in San Diego yesterday in support of migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. Faith leaders guided the group in a solemn procession to the border. When they reached the enforcement zone, they were stopped by a line of Border Patrol agents in riot gear. Leaders moved forward to offer a ceremonial blessing. There were 32 arrests according to Border Patrol. 

Following yesterday’s event and falling between Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 and International Migrants’ Day on Dec. 18, more than 50 solidarity actions will take place across the nation.  

Participants are 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 immigrants. As a step towards those goals, they are also calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  

Love Knows No Borders is organized by AFSC, a Quaker organization that has worked with migrants and refugees for over 100 years. AFSC is joined by organizations and congregations from across the country, including New Poor People’s Campaign, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Detention Watch Network, the United Methodist Church, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Church World Service, and many others.    


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.