More than a dozen people from eight states are facing arrest in connection with the vandalism of a West Texas museum that celebrates the work of U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Activists peppered the institution with stickers and left explicit messages in the guestbook in February in protest of a child immigrant detention in southern New Mexico.
Detectives with the El Paso Police Department this week announced 16 arrest warrants in the case, three for criminal trespass and 13 for criminal mischief. Police have not taken anyone into custody, and are asking the suspects to turn themselves in.
Among the suspects is Hazel Batrez Chavez, 24, of North Hollywood, wanted on suspicion of criminal mischief, police said. Another woman accused of the same crime, 23-year-old Monica Ninette Chan, lives in Sacramento.
Five of the other suspects are from New Mexico, one is from El Paso, and the others live in Missouri, New York and Florida.
David Ham, director of the National Border Patrol Museum, said he’s “pleased” with the announcement.
“They were pretty shook up. They take a lot of pride in the museum and the work that they do,” Ham said of the three museum employees who were there when the vandalism occurred.
The announcement follows deepening tension over the spike in immigrant families that have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in the past year. The current flow of migrants has strained the Border Patrol and caused outrage among human rights advocates.
The activists who swarmed the Border Patrol museum organized under the moniker Tornillo: The Occupation, after the detention camp in Tornillo, New Mexico, which held thousands of migrant teenagers until it was closed in January.
“The reasons for doing this action have not changed,” the group said in a statement issued Friday. “We feel morally called to resist these inhumanities perpetuated by a government and question why those who are protesting these crimes against humanity … are criminalized more than those perpetuating these inhumanities.”
On Feb. 16, members of the group posted stickers throughout the museum that had images of migrant children who died in Border Patrol custody, and posted a video on Facebook of what they described as an “action.”
The vandalism caused $3,000 in damages, according to the El Paso Police Department.