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Tompkins County

Ithaca Residents Released After Arrest in Brownsville, TX

By: Nicole Ogrysko

Two Ithaca residents were arrested and then released after refusing to show identification of their citizenship at an airport in Brownsville, Texas on Tuesday.

Omar Figueredo and Nancy Morales were boarding a domestic flight back to Ithaca when they were stopped by a Border Patrol officer before going through an airport security screening. When he asked them for identification, Figueredo and Morales refused, and then missed their flight, which was set to take off 5 a.m.

“We had talked about this before in anticipation because I knew Border Patrol was going to be there,” Figueredo says. “We had kind of done a little bit of homework and recently come to the conclusion — or the awareness — that those questions that they ask, although they are fairly routine, we have a right not to answer those questions. We decided we’d try that, because if we don’t have to answer those questions, we’d rather not.”

After rescheduling their flight for later that morning, border patrol agents asked them for idenfitication. Once again, both Figueredo and Morales refused. They filmed the entire encounter on their camera phone and uploaded it online.

After refusing to show identification, Brownsville police arrested Figueredo under the charges of “failuring to identify oneself,” “obstructing a passageway,” and “resisting arrest.”

Brownsville police then arrested Morales — she was charged with “inferering with public duties.”

“I was demanding answers,” Morales says. “What is going on, why was he being arrested? I wanted answers, and I believe that they needed to tell me because I knew they had no answers. There was no reason for him to be arrested.”

Though they had a plan to record, Morales says they didn’t expect to get arrested.

“Our intention was never to get arrested,” she says. “It was not a civil disobedience. [In] civil disobedience, you are risking to get arrested, but we were not doing that whatsoever, we were just resisting the harassment and intimidation by the Border Patrol. Yet, we got arrested by the police department.”

They say they decided to record and publicize their confrontation with Border Patrol because Figueredo says he has felt intimidated by previous encounters with border patrol officers.

“This was really important to me because I was standing up for my younger self, having grown up here and having been through this many times before,” Figueredo says. “What happened to use Tuesday morning is not rare at all; it is very routine. That applies to both what we think is a violation of our civil rights on the part of the police but also the harassment of the Border Patrol.”

Morales says she and Figueredo went to visit Omar’s family in Brownsville after traveling for a few weeks.

Morales recent;y received her Master’s degree at Cornell University, and Figueredo is finishing his PhD at the university. Morales is a Los Angeles native, and Figueredo says he was born in Mexico and then moved to Brownsville with his family when he was three-years-old. Both Figueredo and Morales say they are US citizens.

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