¡Aparato! Singer Says She Was Profiled by Border Patrol

Categories: say what?, wtf
Aparato Cat.jpg
Anaheimer and front woman for the jarocho-rock band ¡Aparato!, Nancy Mendez (a.k.a. Cat) assumes the voice of the undocumented whenever she sings, "I'm not a criminal; I'm not who you say I am" on her pro-immigrant anthem "Kriminal." In the early-morning hours of Jan. 10, however, she had to repeatedly assure a Border Patrol agent in Laguna Beach who pulled her vehicle over that she had never been arrested before, she says.

The singer/guitarist was driving home from a mind-clearing cruise along the county's coastline when she noticed a vehicle tailing her. "A white Jeep began following me for a really long time," Mendez recounts during a lunch break from work. "We passed the downtown area and up into the hills. That's when and where he turned on his red-and-blue lights and decided to pull me over."

The white male approached the minivan--weathered by many DIY interstate tours over the years--and identified himself as Border Patrol. The musician says the agent, who had a badge hanging around his neck, spoke of people crossing the border and landing ashore on the beaches. News articles from late last month recall an incident in nearby Crystal Cove State Park, in which a woman reported seeing nearly a dozen or so people unload from a fishing boat that washed ashore. She couldn't definitively say what ethnicity they were, and authorities apparently never found them.

"We recognize there is a threat with the maritime smuggling," replied Border Patrol spokesman Steven Pitts when asked if there was an increase in patrol activity along the coastlines since the incident. A multi-agency task force--the Maritime Unified Command (MUC)--was created in April 2008 in response to those activities, he said, and the Border Patrol is one of those agencies. He would not confirm whether operations are being ramped up in 2011.

The conversation between Mendez and the man who identified himself as a Border Patrol agent continued. "He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was just driving around," she said. "He asked me if I had ever been arrested before, and I said no. He then asked to see my license, and I provided it. At that point, I asked him if I had done anything wrong, and the man said, 'No, not yet.'"

Authorities note that cars park at coordinated "drop-off" spots near coastal highways and freeways to pick up incoming undocumented immigrants. "That's another area we are looking at when there is intelligence," Pitts says. "I can't speak to the specific incident, and I can't really say if it's Border Patrol or not without the information in front of me. But we do have agents in the field in areas where we see an increase in maritime smuggling, and our agents act whenever there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion."

The Border Patrol agent that pulled over the local musician found no one in the minivan but the driver herself. That fact didn't end the encounter, however. "He went back to his patrol vehicle, and another vehicle pulled up," Mendez said. "I overheard two men discussing searching my car for marijuana.

"The agent returned, came up to me and asked me if it was okay to search my vehicle," she adds. "I gave him permission, and he opened my bag, which was filled with clothes that I was going to donate. Then he saw my blue suitcase. I told him I am a musician, and I stored my guitar cables in there.

"He asked me once more if I had ever been arrested, and then finally let me go."

Even though Mendez was pulled over in the dark, early-morning hours, she contends she was racially profiled. "I'm pretty sure he got a look at me before pulling me over because he drove parallel to me in the next lane, going at the same speed, through the well-lit downtown area of Laguna Beach," the singer says. "The nightlife was still out and about."

In response to the experience, Mendez has called and left messages about the incident with Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig, as well as city council members, in order to inform them of what happened. The ordeal earlier this week still brings up feelings of anger and frustration for her. "I was really upset throughout the whole scenario," Mendez says. "Laguna Beach, I love that place.

"If I go back, I'm going to feel like people are watching me."



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13 comments
linaimai
linaimai

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AZHobo
AZHobo

Hmmm. Aimlessly driving around in a beat up, large passenger vehicle at an odd time of day in a known smuggling area, then saying "I was just out for a drive". Yeah. The stop and the questions had nothing to do with race.

Alhe9117
Alhe9117

Racial profiling is serious and a harmful experience. To be pulled over by the Border Patrol and questioned citizenship, whether you are born in the U.S. or not, questions one's "validity" in this country. It's true, Chican@s, Latin@s, and African Americans are constantly criminalized. I believe that Cat was criminalized and racially profiled. I can attest that it's a humiliating and harmful experience, especially if you have done nothing to deserve it. This account on Cat is brought to the public because it's the experience of many people of Color in the U.S. Thank you for writing this article Gabriel. And Cat, I'm sorry you had to experience this.

Waste-O-Time
Waste-O-Time

I'm a tad more dumb now for reading this garbage... Cat, Garbriel, and the photographer just robbed me and others of our finite time on this planet! Ugh... I'm still locked in zen trying to figure out the story here?!?

John J.
John J.

I was pulled over by a UFO last night with no witnesses. Will you do a full page story on me? I'll even supply a picture. Really, has it occured to you that you are being played?

Miguel Flores
Miguel Flores

Where I live it's the latinos that are the racists...jajajajaja.Whoever isn't brown isn't down.

Gkg808
Gkg808

@Waste-O-Time - yet you had no problem wasting more of your valuable time on Earth by responding negatively to a story you obviously don't care about so why did you even click to read it?

Gkg808
Gkg808

That was funny. You're a funny guy. How do you come up with such funny comments?You are awesome! NOT!

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Readers: Disregard this Lupe Moreno with a smaller pair than hers; all he does is litter our blogs with the same inane remarks.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

And has the Border Patrol ever pulled you over, far from the border? That's what I thought!

Rb
Rb

BoberinoI too was pulled over and had to show my papers a while back. The patrolman said old white guys had to prove what they are. He wanted my drivers license, insurance proof and registration papers. Said I should continue to drive carefully. Then said go ahead to whereever I had planned to go. More profiling, happens all the time.

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