284 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct involving “Border Patrol”

Early January, 2024

Among various cases reported by the Daily Mail on January 1, 2024, regarding the illegal return of asylum-seeking migrants at the El Paso border, is that of a Venezuelan family stopped by a Border Patrol agent while crossing a barbed wire fence onto U.S. soil. The family, consisting of a mother, father, and children ages 1 and 4, was forced to return back to Mexico without the opportunity to request asylum, even though they were physically within the United States. According to U.S. and international law, migrants who express fear of return must be given the opportunity to make an asylum claim prior to deportation once on U.S. soil.

—Martinez, Maryann. “Border Patrol Agent Breaks Law by Turning Away Asylum-Seeking Migrants.” Mail Online, January 2, 2024. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12915159/Border-Patrol-agent-illegally-turns-away-asylum-seeking-migrants-Texas.html.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Venezuela

December 19, 2023

A Texas Public Radio report described the case of a migrant woman and child who were recorded by eyewitnesses pleading Border Patrol officers in a nearby airboat for help as they appeared to be drowning in the Rio Grande. Eyewitnesses stated that both the woman and child “went under for a while” and then resurfaced on the water, while a CBP airboat sped by “a few feet away from the woman and child, offering no assistance”.

TPR reported that the Texas Military Department determined that the woman and child were not in need of medical attention nor experiencing medical distress. From their assessment, they stated the migrants were capable of returning the short distance back to the Mexican shore.

—Pablo De La Rosa, “Video shows Texas National Guard soldiers appearing to ignore a mother and baby’s pleas for help in the Rio Grande” (Texas Public Radio, December 19, 2023) https://www.tpr.org/border-immigration/2023-12-18/video-shows-texas-national-guard-members-appearing-to-ignore-a-mother-and-babys-pleas-for-help-in-the-rio-grande.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Mexico

Mid-September, 2023

NBC News, The Hill, and CBS News covered a September 15, 2023 report from a court-appointed juvenile care monitor, who found that CBP continues to separate migrant children from family members while they are in the agency’s custody.

A pediatrician associated with Stanford University, Dr, Paul Wise, interviewed families at a Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas in August 2023, finding that many children, some as young as 8 years old, were separated from their parents for up to 4 days.

The Flores Settlement Agreement, which dates from 1997, mandates that “minors may not be held in immigration detention for more than 72 hours in most cases”. Wise’s report counted 737 minors who traveled as part of family units at Donna in July. Of these, 697 were held between three to five days, 39 were held for longer than 5 days, and 15 were held for more than 14 days.

Reports have shown that minors traveling as part of family units are detained alone more often, and for longer periods of time, than unaccompanied minors.

While Dr. Wise found that Border Patrol was providing basic necessities to the children in custody, some children were receiving adult meals and some families were not being provided sleeping mats. 

CBP blames a large volume of migrants requiring processing, resulting in overcrowding in CBP “pods,” or groups in which children are placed. When pods are overcrowded, CBP makes an assessment of a child’s age and gender and places them in a pod of children with similar backgrounds, which may involve temporary separations from parents.

In his 71-page report, Dr. Wise noted these separations could affect children’s mental health. After interviewing some of the children, he reported “significant emotional distress related to separation, including sustained crying and disorientation.” This largely arose from their inability to communicate with their parents. In many cases, he noted, both the children and their detention caretakers in the facility were unaware of their visitation rights, which grants families the right to request to see each other while in custody.

While these separations have not been permanent, Dr. Wise’s report reveals that even temporary separations have caused emotional distress.

—Wise, Paul H. “Notice of Filing of Juvenile Care Monitor Report by Dr. Paul H. Wise.” California: United States District Court Central District of California, September 15, 2023. https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.45170/gov.uscourts.cacd.45170.1360.0.pdf.

—Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “U.S. Border Agents Are Separating Migrant Children from Their Parents to Avoid Overcrowding, Inspector Finds – CBS News.” CBS News, September 16, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/migrant-children-separated-parents-u-s-border-agents-overcrowding/.

—Bernal, Rafael. “Children Separated at US-Mexico Border Had ‘No Interaction’ with Their Parents: Report.” Text. The Hill, September 18, 2023. https://thehill.com/latino/4210694-children-separated-at-us-mexico-border-had-no-interaction-with-their-parents-report/.

—Ainsley, Julia. “Border Patrol Temporarily Separated Families This Summer, Court Filing Says.” NBC News, September 18, 2023. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/border-patrol-temporarily-separated-families-summer-court-filing-says-rcna105524.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

August 8th, 2023

Hundreds of migrants arrived alongside the U.S border in Ciudad Juarez after false rumors spread that the U.S would allow entry to a mass group. 

Hours prior, Border Patrol warned that social media and word-of-mouth rumors were inciting migrants in Juarez to approach the border in hopes of being allowed entry. Although the rumors were false, hundreds walked to the Puente Negro (Black Bridge) and started shaking the fence.

Around 8:50pm, one group allegedly approached the locked gate and began throwing rocks in an attempt to breach the crossing and force a mass entry, federal officials reported. CBP officials consequently began deploying tear gas and firing pepper balls until the crowd dispersed. One video of the incident illustrates the pepper balls mostly striking the fence.

After this incident, the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) released a statement condemning the “disproportionate use of force against civilians, children, and migrant families”. BNHR also called on the “Biden Administration and Congress to bring accountability and oversight to federal immigration agencies at the southern border”.

“When we arrived on the ground, there were children in pain crying, entire families in the streets covered with tear gas. I saw children who could not find their parents trapped in the smoke clouds of tear gas,” said BNHR State Programs Director Betty Camargo.

—Gonzalez, Jose Luis. “Spurred by Rumor, Hundreds of Migrants Mass at US Border in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez.” Reuters, August 8, 2023, sec. Americas. https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/spurred-by-rumor-hundreds-migrants-mass-us-border-mexicos-ciudad-juarez-2023-08-08/.

—Resendiz, Julian. “Border Officers Fire Pepper Balls at Migrants Attempting Mass Entry.” Border Report, August 8, 2023. https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-officers-fire-pepper-balls-at-migrants-attempting-mass-entry/.

—Lizarraga, Alan. “BNHR Extremely Concerned about the Disproportionate Use of Force Against Immigrant Families and Asylum Seekers and Renews Call for Oversight and Accountability for the Asylum System.” Border Network for Human Rights, August 8, 2023. https://myemail.constantcontact.com/BNHR-Extremely-Concerned-about-the-Disproportionate-Use-of-Force-Against-Immigrant-Families-and-Asylum-Seekers-and-Renews-Call-f.html?soid=1135012213486&aid=3d4wZysFps0.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Crowd Control, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

August 1, 2023

The Houston Chronicle, CNN, and Kristin Etter, an attorney and special project director at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, revealed that Texas state troopers working under the state government’s “Operation Lone Star” have begun to separate asylum-seeking fathers from their families. According to these accounts, CBP (usually Border Patrol) personnel are on hand to witness these separations; Texas authorities hand over the mothers and children to CBP custody.

On at least 26 occasions since July 10, Texas personnel have stopped parents with children, arrested the fathers for trespassing, and turned the mothers and kids over to Border Patrol. The fathers, taken to state prisons, have no way to know where their children or partners are.

In some cases, the Texas police have entrapped the families into “trespassing” by encouraging them to set foot on state or private property, even cutting concertina wire to allow them to do so. Texas police have also begun wearing green uniforms similar to those of Border Patrol, leading families to believe that they are turning themselves in to federal agents to seek asylum.

— Wermund, Benjamin, and Jhair Romero. “Texas Troopers Separating Families at Border in Apparent Policy Shift, Sources Say.” Houston Chronicle, August 2, 2023. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/politics/texas/article/abbott-border-parent-separations-18272489.php.

— Weisfeldt, Sara, and Rosa Flores. “Texas Is Separating Families at the Border in Apparent ‘harsh and Cruel’ Shift in Policy, Immigration Attorney Says.” CNN, August 2, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/02/us/texas-border-policy-separating-families/index.html.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Texas State Police

Event Type(s): Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

July 30, 2023

Ronaldo Alvarado, a 25-year-old, off-duty Border Patrol agent, died of gunshot wounds to his head after a confrontation with local police in Brownsville, Texas.

Police responded to a civilian call, reporting that Alvarado, later identified by authorities, was armed, “highly intoxicated”, and “being extremely aggressive.” Police located his vehicle and attempted to pull him over, when Alvarado reportedly began shooting at the police from his vehicle and tried driving away from the scene.

An officer responded by firing back at Alvarado, causing him to slowly drive onto a private parking lot before crashing into a fence four blocks away. Officers found Alvarado “slumped over with an apparent wound to his head.” The responding officer broke through Alvarado’s window to provide emergency medical attention and found Alvarado’s weapon beside him. There is an ongoing investigation into the shooting.

— Morales, Mia. “MPD: Border Patrol Agent Dies from Gunshot after Officer-Involved Shooting.” ValleyCentral.com, August 1, 2023. https://www.valleycentral.com/news/local-news/mpd-man-leads-police-chase-recovering-after-gunshot-wound/.

— MyRGV.com. “Border Patrol Agent Involved in McAllen Police Shooting Dies,” July 31, 2023. https://myrgv.com/local-news/2023/07/31/border-patrol-agent-involved-in-mcallen-police-shooting-dies/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation

Victim Classification:

Mid-July 2023

According to The Intercept, dozens of migrants arriving at the border were being detained outside, amid a record-setting heatwave in Arizona. Two hours west of Tucson, the Ajo Border Patrol Station received an influx of migrants over the course of the week, roughly beginning on July 16th. While the station can process a couple hundred people a day, The Intercept reported that over 1,000 people had been turning themselves in at the border wall.

Although migrants were being detained outside, Border Patrol officials claimed the outside area was only being used for men, and that migrants had access to meals, water, and a large fan. They confirmed that once these migrants were screened, they were transported to other locations for processing. According to CNN’s report, Border Patrol claimed zero migrants had died in their custody since the beginning of the heat wave, despite the influx of arrivals. 

However, The Intercept revealed that officials refused to answer questions regarding how long people were being kept outside, whether or not children were being detained outside, or if the people detained outside were given emergency medical care. Intercept’s report also states that there was not a canopy above the outside area as Border Patrol agents claimed. 
As the heat worsened, many advocates worried about the safety of the migrants One official stated that by failing to provide resources such as proper heating or cooling equipment, it is essentially impossible for agents to abide by regulations of humane treatment. When interviewing agents anonymously for their report, many officials revealed that they were unaware of who signed off for migrants to be held outside. Some agents believed the treatment was “what they get for coming here illegally”, other agents were appalled at the conditions of the outdoor holding pen, and had liability concerns.

Weisfeldt, Sara, and Rosa Flores. “US Customs and Border Protection Sends Resources to Remote Arizona Area after Increase in Migrant Crossings.” CNN, August 5, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/05/us/arizona-border-crossing-migrants/index.html.
Sullivan, Eileen. “This Agency Was Created With a Terrorism Focus. Now It Also Has to Care for Migrants.” The New York Times, July 13, 2023, sec. U.S. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/13/us/politics/cbp-border-migrants-immigration-el-paso.html.
Devereaux, Ryan. “Border Patrol Violating Court Order Against Inhumane Treatment of Migrants, Officials Say.” The Intercept, August 28, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/08/28/border-migrants-arizona-cages/.
Devereaux, Ryan. “Border Patrol Is Caging Migrants Outdoors During Deadly Arizona Heatwave.” The Intercept, July 21, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/07/21/arizona-heatwave-border-patrol-migrants/.
Bosque, Melissa del. “Ajo Residents, Activists Protest Inhumane Conditions for Asylum Seekers.” The Border Chronicle, February 23, 2023. https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/ajo-residents-activists-protest-inhumane.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Single Adult

July 12, 2023

In a Human Rights First report published on July 12, 2023, they described a case of  Mexican immigration officers blocking a Haitian minor who was pregnant from seeking asylum at the Matamoros port of entry. Humanitarian workers escorted the girl to the port of entry. Border Patrol officers told the humanitarian workers, “Sweetheart, we’re not going to take her.” The humanitarian workers responded by contacting U.S. officials by phone and were able to advocate for the migrant’s processing.

Asencio, Christina, Eleanor Acer, and Rebecca Gendelman. “Refugee Protection Travesty.” New York: Human Rights First, July 12, 2023. https://humanrightsfirst.org/library/refugee-protection-travesty/.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, Outside the United States

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Expulsion of Unaccompanied Minor

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Haiti, Teen, Unaccompanied Child

June 28, 2023

El Paso-based Border Patrol agent Fernando Castillo allegedly offered a migrant woman “papers” and the ability to stay in the United States in exchange for a $5,000 bribe, and stole $500 from her bag, according to court documents. (Original link)

The migrant woman reported the incident, eventually leading to Castillo being indicted by a grand jury on three counts of wire fraud, bribery by a public official and migrant smuggling following his arrest on June 28, according to federal court records.

— Ameer, Sana. “Report: Border Officer Asked for $5K Bribe to Let Migrant Stay in US.” Laredo Morning Times, August 2, 2023. https://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/border-patrol-agent-bribe-18275015.php.

— “Border Patrol Agent Charged with Bribery, Allegedly Offered Immigration Benefits to Migran.” KOMO, July 28, 2023. https://komonews.com/news/nation-world/border-patrol-agent-accused-of-offering-migrant-immigration-papers-for-5k-fernando-castillo-el-paso-texas-us-mexico-border-immigration.

— “Castillo Criminal Complaint.” U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, June 28, 2023. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FtH87RvUPwZLM4Kg5koKrwR8djWql0KM/view.

— Resendiz, Julian. “Border Agent Allegedly Offered Woman ‘Papers’ for $5,000.” BorderReport, July 27, 2023. https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/border-agent-allegedly-offered-woman-papers-for-5000/.

— Weisfeldt, Sara, and Rosa Flores. “US Border Patrol Agent Indicted on Bribery and Smuggling Charges for Allegedly Offering Migrant Immigration ‘papers’ for $5,000.” CNN, August 1, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/01/us/us-border-patrol-agent-bribery-charge-migrant-papers/index.html.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Corruption, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, Under Judicial Review

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

May 18, 2023

Border Patrol agents shot and killed Raymond Mattia, a 58 year-old member of the Tohono O’odham nation, while Mattia was steps from the front door of his home in the community of Menager’s Dam (also known as Ali Chuk), Arizona. Three agents, part of a group accompanying Tohono O’odham Nation police, fired their weapons at Mattia, striking him “several times,” according to CBP’s May 22, 2023 release about the incident (original link).

The three agents who discharged their weapons, along with seven others, activated their body-worn cameras during the incident. On June 22, 2023, CBP released the body-worn camera footage from four of the ten cameras of agents present at the scene, including those of the three agents who fired at Mattia (original link). (The video contains heavy profanity and graphic violence.)

This was CBP’s third release of body-worn camera footage since the agency began making edited footage public in April 2023. On May 23, DHS announced the publication of a new policy on body-worn cameras for the department’s 80,000 law enforcement personnel (original links: release / policy). The announcement noted that CBP, which has had its own body-worn camera directive since August 2021, had so far issued 7,000 cameras to its workforce (original link).

The body-worn camera video release showed the agents firing rapid volleys of bullets at Mattia. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report found that Mattia was hit by nine bullets (original link).

It is not clear why police and agents prioritized Mattia’s residence. CBP’s statement reported that agents arrived at the scene upon the request of the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department, to respond to a “shots fired” call. CBP’s video presentation plays audio of a call from Tohono O’odham police informing Border Patrol of a report of shots fired in a general area. The call does not name any person or address. As NBC News coverage noted, “It is unclear how agents determined the shots came from Mattia,” if shots had in fact been fired.

Mattia’s relatives, however, have said that Mattia himself called Border Patrol for help, because migrants were passing through his property. Relatives say they know nothing about “shots fired” in the area that evening, and that Mattia “thought the agents were there to respond to his previous call about migrants on his property,” which is not far from the border, NBC reported. A family member told the Intercept that some migrants had entered Mattia’s home demanding to use his phone, and “he just grabbed his hunting knife and scared them off.”

Soon after, Annette Mattia, the victim’s sister and neighbor, told Arizona Public Media that she saw “a bunch of Border Patrol vehicles drive into the yard.”

She grabbed her phone and called her brother. She told him Border Patrol were all over and asked what she should do.

Laughing it off, Raymond said, Just tell them to go away. Annette told him she didn’t want to talk to them as she watched the agents rush toward Raymond’s yard. He said he’d go out and talk to them.

“Next thing you know, I heard all the gunfire,” she says. “I didn’t know if it was him or not. I was shaking. I was scared. I was crying because I had that feeling that they did that to him.”

The body-worn camera footage showed agents in an agitated state as they headed toward Mattia’s residence, where they arrived about a half-hour after the initial call. The footage, NBC remarked, indicated that the agents “knew Mattia and had pinpointed him as the person responsible for firing shots.” As they search for him, one agent refers to Mattia as “this motherf——.”

As the Border Patrol agents and Tohono O’odham police converged on his house, the video shows Mattia coming outside. Tribal police told him to put down his weapon. Mattia complied, lobbing toward the police a sheathed machete or hunting knife, perhaps the one he had brandished at the migrants who had reportedly entered his home.

Border Patrol agents, shouting profanity-filled commands, then ordered Mattia to take his “hands out of his f—ing pocket.” Mattia, complying, abruptly removed his hand, holding an object down and to the right. Three agents, apparently believing the object to be a weapon, immediately opened fire multiple times, and Mattia fell to the ground. The object in Mattia’s hand was a mobile phone.

Unable to detect a pulse in Mattia, the agents initiated CPR and subsequently called for air life medical evacuation. Because of inclement weather, however, evacuation was not available, and Mattia was pronounced dead. Annette Mattia told Arizona Public Media that her brother’s body remained in his front yard for seven hours until the medical examiner arrived. “We just got to say our goodbyes in a bodybag,” she said.

Family members told the Intercept that they are perplexed about why agents decided to zero in on Mattia’s home. “The dispatcher states that they couldn’t pinpoint where the shooting was coming from, but yet, when they are there at the rec center [where the operation began], they’re coming straight to my uncle Ray’s house, with their guns drawn,” said Mattia’s niece, Yvonne Nevarez.

Tohono O’odham land straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Nation has had an uneasy relationship at times with U.S. border law enforcement. Mattia himself appears to have had a complicated past relationship with Border Patrol. Ophelia Rivas, a friend of the victim, told the Arizona Republic that Mattia “was on the community council of the village and would often speak up about Border Patrol abuses.” The Intercept noted that he “had been outspoken against the corruption he saw on the border, including corruption involving border law enforcement.” Amy Juan, a leader of the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, told the Border Chronicle podcast that Mattia had “been vocal, not just now, but in the past and recently, about the activity happening that he’s seen in his community, namely, involving Border Patrol. Corruption, and being involved in illegal activities there.”

Mattia’s family and friends described him as a “law abiding citizen” who was “not an aggressive kind of man.” On an episode of the Border Patrol union-affiliated podcast, however, National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art del Cueto remarked that Mattia had a prior arrest record.

“Raymond called for help and, in turn, was shot down at his doorstep,” read a statement from family members, which alleged that “improper and unprofessional actions of the agencies involved were witnessed by family members present near the crime scene.”

The agents who fired their weapons are currently on leave with pay, as is standard in such use-of-force incidents. CBP reported Mattia’s death “is currently being investigated by the Tohono O’odham Nation Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and is under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).”

Once these investigations conclude, CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board will review the incident and make disciplinary recommendations, if any. In fiscal year 2021, the last year for which data are available, this Review Board and local review boards declined to issue sanctions in 96 percent of the 684 cases they reviewed. Of the other 24 cases, 11 ended up with counseling for the agents involved, and the other 13 remained under investigation or pending action as of April 2022.

“There’ll be an investigation, an assessment of the force used, and we are going to look at tensions in the community,” Gary Restaino, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, said on June 23. Frank Figliuzzi, a former civil rights supervisor for the FBI in San Francisco, shared with NBC News his belief that the agents may not be disciplined “given that officers were responding to a ‘shots fired call,’ the way Mattia pulled out his phone, and the darkness of the environment, among other factors.”

— “Tucson agents involved in fatal shooting of man, while responding to shots fired call” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, May 22, 2023) <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/tucson-agents-involved-fatal-shooting-man-while-responding-shots>.

— “CBP releases body-worn camera footage from agent-involved shooting on Tohono O’odham Nation” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 22, 2023) <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-releases-body-worn-camera-footage-agent-involved-shooting-0>.

— “Body-Worn Camera Video Releases” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2023) <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/accountability-and-transparency/body-worn-camera-video-releases>.

— “DHS Announces First Department-Wide Policy on Body-Worn Cameras” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, May 23, 2023) <https://www.dhs.gov/news/2023/05/23/dhs-announces-first-department-wide-policy-body-worn-cameras>.

— Alejandro N. Mayorkas, “Department Policy on Body Worn Cameras” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, May 22, 2023) <https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2023-05/23_0522_opa_signed-dhs-policy-on-body-worn-cameras-508.pdf>.

— “CBP Directive No.: 4320-030B: Incident-Driven Video Recording Systems” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, August 6, 2021) <https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2022-Feb/CBP-Directive-4320-030B-IDVRS-signed-508.pdf>.

— “Autopsy Report for Raymond Mattia.” (Tucson: Pima County Medical Examiner, May 19, 2023.) <https://content.civicplus.com/api/assets/7a5f61dd-df80-4f8e-a519-642d767451aa>.

— Julia Ainsley and Didi Martinez, “CBP releases body camera video of fatal shooting of man on tribal land near Mexican border” (NBC News, June 23, 2023) <https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/cbp-releases-body-camera-video-fatal-shooting-man-tribal-land-mexican-rcna90872>.

— Lupita Murillo, “Tohono O’odham man shot and killed by border patrol” (Tucson: KVOA, May 19, 2023) <https://www.kvoa.com/news/local/tohono-oodham-man-shot-and-killed-by-border-patrol/article_a09cb84e-f6a8-11ed-a078-63d5074703ec.html>.

— Ryan Deveraux, “Border Patrol Video of Killing Shows Native Man Had No Gun, Complied With Orders” (The Intercept, June 26, 2023) <https://theintercept.com/2023/06/26/border-patrol-killing-raymond-mattia/>.

— Danyelle Khmara, “Family of man killed by border patrol want justice for their loved one” (Arizona: Arizona Public Media, May 26, 2023) <https://news.azpm.org/p/news-articles/2023/5/26/216197-family-of-man-killed-by-border-patrol-want-justice-for-their-loved-one/>.

— Todd Miller, “How Border Patrol Occupied the Tohono O’odham Nation” (In These Times, June 12, 2019) <https://inthesetimes.com/article/us-mexico-border-surveillance-tohono-oodham-nation-border-patrol>.

— José Ignacio Castañeda Perez, “‘We want justice’: Family, friends of Tohono O’odham man protest Border Patrol killing” (Arizona: The Arizona Republic, May 27, 2023) <https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2023/05/27/border-patrol-abuses-decried-by-family-of-slain-tohono-oodham-member/70258069007/>.

— Todd Miller, “The Longer Story of the Border Patrol Killing of a Tohono O’odham Man: A Podcast with Amy Juan” (The Border Chronicle, June 15, 2023) <https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-longer-story-of-the-border-patrol>.

— Art Del Cueto, “Episode 463 – The Magic Wand” (The Green Line, May 27, 2023) <https://www.radiogreenline.com/episode-463-the-magic-wand/>.

— Brenda Norrell, “Family of Raymond Mattia, Tohono O’odham Murdered by U.S. Border Patrol, Plans Protests” (IndyBay.org, May 25, 2023) <https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2023/05/25/18856331.php>.

— José Ignacio Castañeda Perez, “Autopsy: Tohono O’odham man shot 9 times by Border Patrol as death ruled a homicide” (Arizona: The Arizona Republic, June 23, 2023) <https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2023/06/23/border-patrol-shot-tohono-oodham-man-9-times-death-ruled-a-homicide/70351733007/>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: To be reviewed by Use of Force Review Board, Under FBI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Indigenous, U.S. Citizen or Resident

May 17, 2023

Anadith Danay Reyes Alvarez, an eight-year-old Panamanian daughter of Honduran parents, died on her ninth day of being held in CBP custody with her family in Border Patrol’s Harlingen, Texas Station. The likely cause was influenza.

The family had turned themselves in to Border Patrol in Texas on May 9, 2023, two days before the Title 42 pandemic expulsion policy came to an end, a time when the agency was apprehending about 10,000 people per day. This may have prolonged their time in custody, although the Associated Press reported that by May 14, the average time in custody border-wide had fallen to 77 hours as the rate of new apprehensions dropped rapidly. Under normal circumstances, migrants are meant to spend no more than 72 hours in Border Patrol’s austere holding facilities.

According to a series of CBP statements and updates about Reyes’s case, on May 14th Reyes voiced complaints of abdominal pain, nasal congestion, and cough. That day, CBP-contracted medical personnel reported a fever of 101.8 degrees and a positive test result for Influenza A. In accordance with CBP protocol, the family was transferred to Harlingen Border Patrol Station for communicable disease medical isolation.

Reyes’s mother, Mabel Álvarez Benedicks, told the Associated Press that Border Patrol personnel, including medical contractors, repeatedly denied her appeals for medical aid, including an ambulance and hospitalization, in some cases just administering fever-reducing medication.

CBP reported that the family requested the medical personnel review Anadith’s medical documents to understand her medical conditions: a history of heart problems and sickle-cell anemia (original link). The parents made four requests for an ambulance. All requests were denied.

CBP acknowledged that medical personnel at the Harlingen Border Patrol Station refused to escalate Anadith’s level of care, even as her fever rose to 104.9 degrees early on May 16, the day before she passed. “Contracted medical personnel did not consult with on-call physicians (including an on-call pediatrician) about the girl’s condition, symptoms, or treatment,” the agency’s June 1 statement continued. “The contracted medical personnel failed to document numerous medical encounters, emergency antipyretic interventions, and administrations of medicine.”

The statement went on to note that “the camera system at Harlingen Station was flagged for repair/replacement on April 13. The outage was not reported to CBP OPR as required by H.R. 1158, Fiscal Year 2020 DHS Consolidated Appropriation.”

CBP reported nine medical encounters while the family was in the Harlingen facility. The mother requested emergency attention three times on the 17th; that day, the girl had a seizure, became unresponsive, and was transported to a hospital, where personnel declared her deceased within minutes.

“They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe,” Álvarez Benedicks told the Associated Press. “She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.”

When she reported her daughter’s bone pain to an agent, she said he responded, “‘Oh, your daughter is growing up. That’s why her bones hurt. Give her water.’”

“I just looked at him,” Alvarez Benedicks said. “How would he know what to do if he’s not a doctor?”

“I felt like they didn’t believe me,” she said.

In an interview with ABC’s GMA3 program, Álvarez Benedicks said “she felt like medical personnel thought she was lying about how sick her child was feeling… She says Anadith told the staff ‘I can’t breathe from my mouth or my nose.’” The mother added her belief that she received poor treatment because she is Black: “I feel that since I got there they discriminated against me because of my skin tone and because I am an immigrant.”

In a May 21 statement, CBP “Senior Official Performing the Duties of Commissioner” Troy Miller informed that the agency would review cases of “medically fragile” people being kept in custody for long periods, and “will immediately initiate a review of medical care practices at CBP facilities and ensure the deployment of additional medical personnel as needed” (original link). The statement added that CBP had added more than 1,000 medical contractors to its facilities since 2021.

In a June 1 statement, Miller pledged other changes like reducing family units’ time in custody, deploying clinicians from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) to CBP sites, ordering a review of the medical contractor’s practices at CBP facilities, and prohibiting several medical providers involved in the incident from providing care at CBP facilities (original link).

The Washington Post reported that on June 15 CBP transferred its chief medical officer, David Tarantino, to another assignment at DHS. (Tarantino’s position was created in 2020, after, as the Associated Press put it, “at least six children died during a roughly yearlong period from 2018 to 2019 during the Trump administration.”)

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reported on internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents finding fault with CBP’s care for medically fragile migrants in the agency’s custody. The Post reviewed a June 8 internal memo from DHS acting chief medical officer Herbert O. Wolfe that found the Harlingen Border Patrol station “lacked sufficient medical engagement and accountability to ensure safe, effective, humane and well-documented medical care.” The memo, according to the Post’s Nick Miroff, “describes an ad hoc system with little ability to manage medical records, poor communication among staff and a lack of clear guidelines for seeking help from doctors outside the border agency.”

In his response to Wolfe, CBP’s Miller stated that he had ordered the relocation of medically vulnerable migrants from the Harlingen station, and halted the facility’s use as an isolation unit. He added that CBP is reviewing its medical record-keeping system and has told its medical contractor to “take immediate action to review practices and quality assurance plans to ensure appropriate care.” That contractor, Loyal Source Government Services, “received a $408 million medical services contract from CBP in 2020,” the Post reported.

The Los Angeles Times obtained documents from DHS’s Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman (OIDO) indicating that officials at one of the Texas CBP detention facilities where Anadith’s family was held had been “complaining about the facility’s ‘overuse of hospitalization.’” A May 22 memo reported by the Times’s Hamed Aleaziz noted that the staff of CBP’s Donna, Texas processing facility “had a ‘tendency to send migrants to the hospital for things that could easily be treated on location,’ the investigators wrote.” Days earlier, agents refused Anadith Reyes’ parents’ repeated pleas for an ambulance and hospital care.

The August 25, 2023 Washington Post reported that Border Patrol had already decided not to renew a $25 million per month contract with the company providing medical services in its Harlingen, Texas station when Reyes passed there. The agency had not yet selected a company to take over duties performed by Florida-based Loyal Source Government Services, which had filed protests about the contracting process.

Anadith Danay Reyes Alvarez was laid to rest in New Jersey on June 17. “We will let our baby rest and let her rest in peace. We want justice for her so that no one else has to go through this,” read a statement from the family. According to the Associated Press, attorneys with the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Haitian Bridge Alliance have requested an independent autopsy to determine the cause of her death.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “June 1, 2023 Update: Death in Custody of 8-Year-Old in Harlingen, Texas,” June 1, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/june-1-2023-update-death-custody-8-year-old-harlingen-texas.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Statement from CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller on the Investigation of the In-Custody Death of a Child,” June 1, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-cbp-acting-commissioner-troy-miller-investigation.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Update: Death in Custody of 8-Year-Old in Harlingen, Texas,” May 21, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/update-death-custody-8-year-old-harlingen-texas.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Statement from CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller Regarding the Ongoing Investigation of In-Custody Death,” May 21, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-cbp-acting-commissioner-troy-miller-regarding-ongoing.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Statement from CBP,” May 17, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-cbp.

— Gonzalez, Valerie. “Mother of 8-Year-Old Girl Who Died in Border Patrol Custody Says Pleas for Hospital Care Were Denied.” Associated Press, May 20, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/border-patrol-custody-death-harlingen-8da5429f39cb7ac0ff4c9184a42d8ba2.

— Garcia, Armando. “CBP Ignored Pleas for Help before Migrant Girl’s Death, Parents Say.” ABC News, June 22, 2023. https://abcnews.go.com/US/cbp-pleas-migrant-girls-death-parents/story?id=100271491.

— Miroff, Nick. “CBP Reassigns Chief Medical Officer after Child’s Death in Border Custody.” Washington Post, June 15, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/06/15/border-patrol-medical-care-child-death/.

— Spagat, Elliot. “Death of 8-Year-Old Girl in Border Patrol Custody Highlights Challenges Providing Medical Care.” AP News, May 22, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/border-patrol-custody-child-death-e6dbfde4986eb9e8a91284c3f80293df.

— Miroff, Nick. “Inquiry after Girl’s Death Reports Unsafe Medical Care in U.S. Border Facilities.” Washington Post, June 22, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/2023/06/22/medical-care-unsafe-border-facilities-migrants/.

— Aleaziz, Hamed. “Border Patrol Officials Complained of ‘overuse of Hospitalization’ as 8-Year-Old Died.” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2023. https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-06-28/8-year-old-border-patrol-death-fever-hospital.

— Univision. “Entierran a la niña que murió en custodia de la Patrulla Fronteriza y sus padres aseguran: ‘Buscaremos justicia.’” Univision, June 17, 2023. https://www.univision.com/noticias/inmigracion/padres-nina-8-anos-murio-custodia-patrulla-fronteriza-entierran.

— Gonzalez, Valerie, and Liset Cruz. “Balloons, Tears and Hugs as Family of Girl Who Died in Border Patrol Custody Holds New York Funeral.” AP News, June 16, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/border-patrol-anadith-custody-death-8cfee1e24758eefc21086ff3a2215943.

— Miroff, Nick. “Before Child Died in Custody, CBP Tried to Replace Medical Contractor.” Washington Post, August 28, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/immigration/2023/08/25/border-medical-migrants-loyal-source/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Shared with Local Police, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Female, Panama

Mid-May, 2023

Reporting on May 25, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Organized crime and authorities in Mexico and the U.S. strip asylum seekers of their resources on the journey, exacerbating their suffering.”

Among cases cited:

– Admiel [name changed to protect privacy] faced extortion many times after fleeing Venezuela. In Guatemala, the police demanded 600 quetzales ($77 USD). In Mexico City, Mexican immigration agents took 3,200 pesos ($179 USD). After he had turned himself in to US authorities a few weeks ago, Border Patrol took all his clothing and personal hygiene items. 

– After Leonardo [name changed to protect privacy] tried to enter the US, Border Patrol apprehended him and did not return his belongings. In addition to his clothing and cellphone, they took 7,300 pesos ($408 US).

— “May 25 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 25, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela

Early May, 2023

A June 9 Human Rights First report shared Venezuelan women’s accounts of being “separated by Border Patrol from their respective family groups and/or others they were traveling with after crossing into the United States near Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico during the final days of Title 42.”

A woman seeking asylum from Venezuela, Xóchitl [name changed for privacy], was separated by Border Patrol from her husband, subsequently expelled under Title 42 alone 1200 miles away to Nogales, and struggles to seek asylum in wake of Biden asylum ban:

“[Border Patrol] asked if there were any married couples. We told them we were married and had our legal marriage certificate. We were then separated. I spent four very cold nights in a soft-sided tent without any information on my husband. I was then handcuffed at the wrists, ankles, waist and transported by plane with 200 other women, still not told what was happening or where my husband was. I was then returned through Nogales, Mexico alone with these other women. Only once in Nogales did I hear from my husband. He had been returned back to Matamoros.

It was horrible. The [Border Patrol] officers mocked us. There were many women crying and they [the officers] would laugh. When they boarded us on the plane, we weren’t even told where we were going. They crossed us back to Nogales without giving us any information, not even the name or location of a shelter.”

“Xóchitl’s” husband was later processed for asylum in Brownsville, Texas and paroled into the United States. As of the Human Rights First report’s publication, “Xóchitl, meanwhile remains alone in Nogales. She was waiting in line outside the port for over two weeks.”

— Asencio, Christina. “A Line That Barely Budges.” Human Rights First, June 9, 2023. https://humanrightsfirst.org/library/a-line-that-barely-budges-u-s-limiting-access-to-asylum/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Venezuela

Early May, 2023

Reporting on May 11, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted a case of cruel treatment in custody and deliberately misleading conduct involving an asylum seeker.

Henry [name changed to protect privacy] turned himself in to the Border Patrol, where agents told him he would go to an interview to explain his case to a US official. However, that never happened and on the day of his expulsion, CBP agents handcuffed him at the hands, waist, and feet. The handcuffs were too tight and multiple people asked for them to be loosened, but the agents ignored him. “I never in my life have been treated like that: I never thought I’d be treated like a criminal upon arriving in the US,” Henry said. He arrived at KBI the day after his expulsion and still had indentations on his wrists from the handcuffs.

— “May 11 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 11, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Early May, 2023

Reporting on May 11, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recounted a case of family separation in Border Patrol custody.

Esme [name changed to protect privacy] fled southern Mexico with her sister and nephew. Esme’s sister has a disability that impedes her communication and comprehension. When they turned themselves into Border Patrol, the agents separated Esme from her sister and nephew, despite the legal document she had naming her as her sister’s legal guardian. CBP immediately expelled Esme while her sister and nephew remained detained. However, Esme’s sister did not have the contact information of her brother who would receive them in the US. Agents said if they couldn’t find family members in the US, they would remove her son to process him as an unaccompanied minor. Upon hearing they would be separated, her 9 year old son started crying and they asked to be expelled back to Mexico to remain together.

— “May 11 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 11, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Disability, Family Unit, Mexico

Early May, 2023

Reporting on May 11, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), stated “CBP consistently perpetuates abuses, including throwing away migrants’ religious items and personal belongings and separating families.”

Among cases cited:

Armando [name changed to protect privacy] turned himself into the Border Patrol, where agents took his shoes, wallet with $55 USD and 200 Mexican pesos and his Bible. An agent threw away the Bible that had sustained him in his journey from Venezuela in the trash can in front of him.

— “May 11 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 11, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings, Religious Freedom Violation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela

Late April, 2023

Reporting on April 27, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated that, “Multiple expelled asylum seekers detained near El Paso and expelled to Nogales reported that BP confiscated original identification documents and essential medication.”

Among cases cited:

– BP officers threw away Ramon’s [name changed to protect privacy] belongings, including his diabetes medication. 

– BP agents verbally abused Jaime [name changed to protect privacy], saying that Venezuelans have no right to be in the US and that the problems in Venezuela are not their problem. A BP agent confiscated his cellphone, earbuds, money, and Venezuelan ID. He took the ID and cut it in half with scissors in front of Jaime.

– BP agents confiscated all of Paulina’s [name changed to protect privacy] personal property. When BP was transporting them to Nogales for expulsion, they began calling names to return property. They never called Paulina’s name and she told them she needed her Venezuelan ID back. The agents separated her and 3 others who were asking for their IDs back and threatened them, saying “you’re going to jail for making false accusations against an agent.” The agent continued: “I’m going to strip search and send you to jail.” They transported Paulina and the 3 others back to Tucson, where luckily, BP still had their IDs.

“April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): El Paso, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Late April, 2023

Reporting on April 27, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Similar to reports Kino documented from people who were laterally expelled to Nogales, MX in 2021, expelled asylum seekers reported many common abuses, such as Border Patrol agents throwing away all their clothing, handcuffing them at the feet, waist and hands for hours at a time, denying basic hygiene items and access to showers for up to a week, and misleading them to believe they were going to see an immigration judge, only to be expelled through another part of the border.”

Among cases cited:

– Briseida [name changed to protect privacy] turned herself in to BP. She was detained for 5 days. She asked to be able to shower because she was menstruating, but the BP agent did not allow her to shower. She also requested sanitary pads, which they never provided to her.

– After turning himself in to BP, Jair [name changed to protect privacy] was detained for 10 days. He was only allowed to shower 1 time and he was never allowed to brush his teeth.

– Olivia [name changed to protect privacy] was detained for 5 days, during which she was allowed to shower only 1 time. She only had the clothes she was wearing when she arrived, as they took away all her other clothing. They confiscated the underwear she was wearing and gave her a pair of underwear that was too small. She had to rip them to be able to wear them. She was never allowed to make a phone call while she was detained, not even to let her family members know she was alive. BP put her on a plane and she could not eat or drink anything on the plane because she was chained at the hands, waist and feet the entire time.

— “April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard of Public Health, Gender-Based Harm or Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

Late April, 2023

Reporting on April 27, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated:

“After false reports circulated on social media and Breitbart News that the US government was no longer expelling Venezuelan nationals to Mexico under Title 42, approximately 1500 asylum seekers turned themselves in to Border Patrol in El Paso, TX to seek protection in the US. Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received 170 Venezuelan nationals flown from El Paso, many of whom were separated from their family members in the process. KBI is aware of 7 couples that were able to reunite in our center. In at least 4 cases, asylum seekers expelled to Nogales had to wait for 7 days to hear from their significant others, who were expelled in places such as Matamoros, Tijuana, and Mexicali.”

Among cases cited:

– Johnny [name changed to protect privacy] left the Venezuelan military after serving for 10 years. He commented on years of having to repress people’s rights: “I had to silence my people’s protests, but I could no longer silence my conscience.” He fled to Peru, where Venezuelan military officers came to search for him, and then to Chile, where they pursued him again. Johnny, his brother and his nephew turned themselves in to Border Patrol in El Paso. The agents refused to listen to Johnny’s asylum case and expelled him, while they processed his brother and nephew into the US.

– Upon turning himself in to Border Patrol, Emanuel [name changed to protect privacy] and his wife were separated. CBP expelled Emanuel in Tijuana and his wife in Nogales. Nearly 500 miles away from his wife and without any money to pay for the $2,800 MX ($154 USD) journey to Nogales, Emanuel rode on top of a cargo train to reunite with his wife. While on the train, he witnessed the kidnapping of another man by a prominent cartel.

– Paulina [name changed to protect privacy] turned herself in to Border Patrol along with her aunt, uncle and cousins. CBP separated Paulina and her aunt from the rest of their family and expelled the 2 of them to Nogales. Paulina’s cousin suffers from a chronic illness and upon turning themselves in, CBP transported him to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. They heard from him because he was allowed to keep his phone while in the hospital, but they are very worried for his health because he was diagnosed with pneumonia and they are going to put him on dialysis. They still do not know where her uncle is.

— “April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): El Paso, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Single Adult, Venezuela

April, 2023

In early April, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Border Patrol agents had been keeping migrants out in the open, in the area between two layers of border wall, for days.

The agency was using the space as an open-air holding cell for extended periods of time since at least October of 2022, as media reports from Tijuana’s El Imparcial documented. The initial Union-Tribune investigation reported roughly 150 people held between the walls for up to 5 days, with agents providing them nothing to eat and very little water.

In the days leading up to the May 11, 2023 end of the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, the area became a focus of media attention, as reports indicated about 1,000 migrants “stuck” between the wall layers for days before Border Patrol would process them, in the meantime relying on volunteers on the other side of the fence for basic needs.

The initial San Diego Union Tribune reports described the scene:

When a gate opened in the wall further into the United States, many of the migrants tried to walk or run out of the area. Border Patrol agents on ATVs and in cars quickly appeared and directed the group back inside the enclosure. That indicated that the migrants were not free to leave and thus in custody of the agents.

The group told the Union-Tribune that they’d been instructed to wait there to be processed by agents. The more than a dozen people interviewed by the Union-Tribune said they had crossed into the United States to seek asylum.

On May 13, the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) filed a complaint with DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties alleging that CBP “is detaining migrants in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions in an open-air corridor in California.” The complaint added, “CBP agents have only given migrants one small bottle of water a day and one granola bar, far from adequate to endure, leading migrants to eat leaves to survive.” SBCC noted that “CBP has provided only one port-a-potty for hundreds of people, which filled up weeks ago and is unusable.” A vast majority of migrants agreed with the statement, “If I did not receive food and water from volunteers, I would not get enough food and water from Border Patrol to survive.”

People from at least 15 countries, including more than a few children, spent as many as 7 days, according to SBCC, out in the open air between the wall layers, fashioning shelters from bits of plastic. Some used their mobile phones—charged with the help of volunteers on the other side of the fence—to order food deliveries from Tijuana restaurants.

Several members of Congress wrote to CBP voicing strong concern, including a May 5th letter. (original link) The agency responded in early July:

The individuals in question had not made contact with U.S. Border Patrol personnel and were not constrained from further movement…At the time of this incident, the USBP San Diego Sector facilities were experiencing capacity issues and some transportation challenges which have since been remediated. Border Patrol Agents encountered and apprehended the migrants as soon as it was operationally feasible to do so.

Representative Robert Garcia (D-California) responded:

To say that it’s not happening or that they’re not aware of the incident I think is not acceptable…There are human beings here who need help and assistance. This idea that they can’t fess up to something that’s really an issue and really happening is very concerning. I hope that the department isn’t lying to us in Congress with these claims.

Rep. Garcia affirmed he was moving to launch an investigation through his work on the Homeland Security Committee.

Over the weekend of May 13-14, CBP started to empty out two San Diego encampments, processing migrants 30 to 50 at a time.

In September 2023, as migration began increasing again to levels last seen in April, Border Patrol began to hold migrants in between the border wall layers again. Border Patrol was sending around 50 migrants at a time on buses to be processed, which was “a faster circulation of people than what we saw back in May,” Pedro Rios of AFSC told San Diego’s local CBS affiliate.

September reports indicate that the wait for processing was 24 to 36 hours. Border Patrol agents were handing out water bottles, cheese, and crackers. Volunteers provided all other supplies, from blankets to diapers to phone charging equipment, through the slats of the border wall.

As of late September 2023, migrants continued to await processing out in the open in an encampment between layers of the double border wall between San Diego and Tijuana. “An official familiar with the situation” told the Los Angeles Times, in a story published on September 16, “that the number of people between the walls is growing faster than agents can move them out.”

— Cuéllar, Mireya. “Trasladan a Los Retenidos Entre Los Dos Muros de La Línea Tijuana-San Diego.” La Jornada, May 15, 2023. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/05/15/politica/004n1pol.

— Garcia, Robert, Juan Vargas, and Delia C. Ramirez. “Letter to Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz,” May 5, 2023. https://ramirez.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/ramirez.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/2023-05-05_letter-border-outdoor-detention-.pdf.

— Hernandez, David. “Open-Air Holding Areas at the Border Cleared as Processing of Migrants Ramps Up.” The San Diego Union Tribune, May 14, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2023-05-14/open-air-holding-areas-at-the-border-cleared-as-processing-of-migrants-ramps-up.

— Karlamangla, Soumya. “Visiting the Migrant Camp at the San Diego-Tijuana Border.” The New York Times, May 15, 2023, sec. U.S. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/15/us/migrants-title-42-san-diego-tijuana.html.

— Morrissey, Kate. “Border Patrol Leaves Migrants Stranded in San Diego as Shelters Reach Capacity.” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2023. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-09-16/border-patrol-leaves-migrants-stranded-in-san-diego-as-shelters-reach-capacity.

— Morrissey, Kate. “In Letter to Congressmembers, CBP Denies Holding Migrants in Custody between Border Fences in San Diego.” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 12, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2023-07-12/letter-congressmembers-cbp-migrants-between-border-fences-san-diego.

— Morrissey, Kate. “Migrants Say Border Patrol Is Keeping Them between the Border Walls for Days without Food or Shelter.” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 13, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2023-04-13/migrants-say-border-patrol-is-keeping-them-between-the-border-walls-for-days-without-food-or-shelter.

— Reyes, Khennia. “Cumplen migrantes tres días detenidos en el muro de Estados Unidos.” Noticias de Tijuana | EL IMPARCIAL, October 17, 2022. https://www.elimparcial.com/tijuana/tijuana/Cumplen-migrantes-tres-dias-detenidos-en-el-muro-de-Estados-Unidos-20221016-0023.html.

— Southern Border Communities Coalition. “BREAKING: Border Advocates File Complaint Alleging CBP Has Violated Custody Standards, Putting Lives at Risk in the California Corridor Between Border Walls,” May 13, 2023. https://www.southernborder.org/border_advocates_file_complaint_alleging_cbp_has_violated_custody_standards_putting_lives_at_risk_in_the_california_corridor_between_border_walls.

— Southern Border Communities Coalition. “BREAKING: Migrants in CBP Custody Speak About Their Conditions in Open-Air Detention Sites in California in a New Report by U.S. Immigration Policy Center,” May 15, 2023. https://www.southernborder.org/migrants_in_cbp_custody_speak_about_their_conditions_in_open_air_detention_sites_in_california_in_a_new_report_by_us_immigration_policy_center.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees

Victim Classification:

Mid-April 2023

Reporting on April 27th, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received reports that BP expelled 21 asylum seekers at night, at 8 pm or later, including as late as 2 am. Thirteen people reported they had to sleep outside on the street because they were deported too late to find a shelter.”

Among cases cited:

– BP expelled Yadir [name changed to protect privacy] to Nogales at 9 pm along with about 40 others. They all had to sleep outside in the plaza.

– BP expelled Osman [name changed to protect privacy] to Nogales at 9:30 pm. He had to sleep on the street and he was very cold because BP had thrown away all of his clothing, leaving him with only what he had on his back.

– BP expelled German [name changed to protect privacy] to Nogales at 9 pm. Mexican Immigration agents told him he could sleep on the sidewalk outside the Mexican immigration office.

— “April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Early April 2023

On April 2nd, 2023, Customs and Border Patrol Agents (CBP) fatally shot Joel Inbody, a 32-year-old man from West Seneca, New Mexico. Around 8:37pm, a Border Patrol agent began following Inbody’s white Nissan Rogue after it failed to completely stop at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint located on Interstate 10. 

After agents began following Inbody, they deployed a spike strip that popped his vehicle’s tires and Inbody exited his car and began walking away on foot. In the video released by CBP, agents attempted to persuade Inbody to release the wooden stick he was carrying and order him to the ground. 

As Inbody continued to walk and ignore their requests, agents deployed their electric tasers in an attempt to subdue him. These attempts failed. After Inbody swung his stick at approaching agents, agents fired. CBP’s official report lists that agents fired at least 16 rounds, and Inbody was officially declared deceased at 5:16 am on April 3rd. 
According to Joel Inbody’s mother, Kim Lewis, Inbody suffers from bipolar disorder and PTSD. She suspects that he had mental health issues during his encounter with border agents, and questions why agents failed to recognize this. Now Lewis, along with her attorney Tom Casey, believes agents could have handled the incident differently and are waiting for answers from CBP as they continue their investigation.

Moretti, Luke, and Daniel Telvock. “West Seneca Man Fatally Shot by Border Agents in New Mexico Desert | Part 1.” News 4 Buffalo, September 25, 2023. https://www.wivb.com/news/investigates/west-seneca-man-fatally-shot-by-border-agents-in-new-mexico-desert-part-1/.
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. “Use of Force Incident, Las Cruces, New Mexico. April 2, 2023,” May 2, 2023. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/881873/use-force-incident-las-cruces-new-mexico-april-2-2023.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “CBP Releases Body-Worn Camera Footage from Agent-Involved Shooting | U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” May 2, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-releases-body-worn-camera-footage-agent-involved-shooting.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Agents Fire Service Weapons on Non-Compliant Man after He Strikes Agent with Wooden Club; Man Dies at Scene,” April 8, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/agents-fire-service-weapons-non-compliant-man-after-he-strikes.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: Medical Condition, Single Adult

Early March, 2023

Reporting on March 2, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), stated, “The CBPOne application is currently the sole way to access the asylum process in the US. The extremely limited number of appointments and the myriad technology and accessibility challenges in accessing them (outlined in the Strauss Center’s February Asylum Processing Report) has led to irregular crossing, kidnapping, family separation and danger for families forced to wait in Mexico when they are unable to access an appointment on the app.”

Among cases cited:

Jaime, [name changed to protect privacy] his wife and his son fled Venezuela and arrived in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. There, they were able to schedule an appointment through CBPOne, but the only available appointment was in San Ysidro, Baja California, over 1200 miles away. While traveling to San Ysidro by bus, the entire family was kidnapped, tortured and extorted by a criminal group. The people who boarded the bus identified themselves as Mexican immigration agents, and after asking Jaime and his family where they were from, told them they needed to get off the bus so they could check their documents. These supposed immigration agents brought them to a house, where they were held for 20 days, extorted and tortured. One night at 3 am, they were blindfolded, put in a truck and taken to the border wall. They said they had to walk and cross and if they tried to come back they would kill them. Once they crossed, they called 911 and explained what happened. BP arrived and they explained that they had been kidnapped, had missed their CBPOne appt while being held hostage, and were forced to cross. The agent responded that really they were the criminals because they had crossed illegally. A few hours later, BP expelled them to Nogales, Mexico. 

“March 2 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 2, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

Late February, 2023

Reporting on March 2, 2023,  the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, 73 people (16% of new arrivals) reported experiencing abuse by authorities or criminal actors in transit countries, including Mexico. This pattern of abuse illustrates that policies that force asylum seekers to wait or seek protection in transit countries, such as the proposed asylum ban, do not provide people with adequate access to safety.”

Among cases cited:

Wilhelmina [name changed to protect privacy] fled Venezuela after her parents were killed. She left with her 2 children and her cousin, who is a trans woman. In early February, they were all kidnapped in a Mexican border city and Wilhelmina’s cousin was raped by their captors. Wilhemina escaped with her children and they turned themselves into BP. BP took away all their clothing and expelled them back to the same city where they had been kidnapped. She has not heard from her cousin since February 8, 2023.

“March 2 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 2, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, LGBTQ

February 25, 2023

Three migrants and a U.S. citizen died in the pre-dawn hours of February 25 in a crash following a Border Patrol chase in Rio Bravo, near Laredo, Texas.

A Border Patrol agent sought to stop a sedan near the site where a remote camera had detected a suspected group of undocumented migrants. The agent “activated his vehicle’s emergency equipment to conduct a vehicle stop,” according to a CBP release. (Original link) “The sedan slowed but then accelerated, failing to yield to the agent’s emergency equipment.”

The agent gave chase, but “reportedly lost sight of the vehicle,” which then hit a speed bump, lost control, and crashed in front of a residence. The car “was airborne when six people were ejected and the car landed on its roof,” according to Rio Bravo Fire Chief Juan González. Video footage obtained by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility showed the Border Patrol agent arriving at the scene of the collision 24 seconds after it happened.

The driver, a 19-year-old male U.S. citizen, and an unidentified passenger were declared deceased at the scene. A male citizen of Guatemala was declared dead at the Laredo Medical Center. An unidentified passenger was declared dead at Laredo’s Doctors Hospital. Border Report reported that the sedan had a total of six migrants aboard.

CBP’s release noted that the incident was “under investigation by Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.” The DHS Office of Inspector General was notified.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Four Dead; Multiple Injured after Driver of Suspected Human Smuggling Vehicle Crashes near Rio Bravo, Texas,” March 10, 2023. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/four-dead-multiple-injured-after-driver-suspected-human-smuggling>.

— Sanchez, Sandra. “U.S. Citizen, 3 Migrants Die in Border Patrol Chase, Rio Bravo Fire Chief Says.” BorderReport, February 27, 2023. <https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/u-s-citizen-3-migrants-die-in-border-patrol-chase-rio-bravo-fire-chief-says/>.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, U.S. Citizen or Resident