10 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the accountability status is “No Steps Taken”

March 25, 2022

Activist Scott Nicol posted photographs of Cuban and Costa Rican vaccination cards discarded in a trash bag at a site near the border wall In Mission, Texas. The trash, left by Border Patrol agents, included personal belongings of asylum-seeking migrants who regularly turn themselves in at this site.

—”Scott Nicol @Scott_NicolTX on Twitter” (United States, Twitter, March 25, 2022) https://twitter.com/Scott_NicolTX/status/1507508896272949257.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Disregard of Public Health, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Costa Rica, Cuba

March 22, 2022

An article at the Border Chronicle covered “Veterans on Patrol,” a QAnon-affiliated citizen militia group in rural Arizona that has interdicted hundreds of unaccompanied children when they cross the border. While the militia turns the kids over to Border Patrol, its members “take the phone numbers of the children’s sponsors and, in some cases, confront the sponsors at their homes in the United States.”

Border Chronicle reporter Melissa del Bosque questioned why Border Patrol permits the militia group to carry out these activities, including leaving no presence but “Veterans on Patrol” at gaps in the border wall where children regularly cross.

—Melissa del Bosque, “’Humanitarians’ with Guns” (United States, The Border Chronicle, March 22, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/humanitarians-with-guns.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vigilantism Tolerance or Collaboration

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

March 11, 2022

A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Security Officer, requested by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, finds few examples of violent domestic extremism among the Department’s workforce (original link). It warns, however, that DHS lacks clear definitions, training, guidances, and procedures to detect and root out extremist behavior.

A “data call” among DHS components identified 35 allegations of potential violent extremist activity between fiscal year 2019 and the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. Upon further review, four of those incidents “involved active participation or support for violent extremist activity,” the rest were deemed either unsubstantiated or miscategorized. The report does not specify how many of these incidents, if any, involved DHS’s border agencies.

“Because of the challenges with identifying, categorizing, and tracking this information,” the report notes, “it is possible that the data call resulted in an under-reporting of the number of allegations made and investigations conducted.”

Domestic Violent Extremism Internal Review: Observations, Findings, and Recommendations (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Security Officer, March 11, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/Report%20to%20the%20Secretary%20of%20Homeland%20Security%20Domestic%20Violent%20Extremism%20Internal%20Review%20Observations%2C%20Findings%2C%20and%20Recommendations.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification:

January 5, 2022

In the January 8, 2022 San Diego Union-Tribune, reporter Kate Morrissey recounted the experience of two Colombian men who, on January 5, were the first to be sent back to Tijuana under the revived “Remain in Mexico” program. She found that what they underwent “included many of the issues that plagued the program under the Trump administration.”

The Biden administration’s December 2 guidance for the restarted program promised access to counsel. But Morrissey found that “the two Colombian men were not allowed to speak with attorneys while in U.S. custody.” The wife of one of the men, a green card holder in the United States, could have hired an attorney for him to support his claim of fear of return to Mexico, but officials denied his request to call her.

The men, who had turned themselves in to U.S. personnel in order to seek protection after receiving urgent threats in Colombia, recounted poor treatment in CBP custody. They were placed in a cell in a Border Patrol station with “dozens of other men,” forced to sleep on the floor for nearly a week, with lights always on, for lack of bed space. They were not given an opportunity to bathe or shower. “Though they do not speak much English, they realized that agents were speaking badly about them, they said. They recognized words like ‘stupid’ and phrases like ‘go back to your country.’”

As required by the new guidelines, a Border Patrol agent asked the men if they were afraid to return to Mexico, although they said “another agent tried to keep that official from asking the question.” Under the Biden administration’s new guidance, after expressing fear the men were entitled to 24 hours to contact an attorney before speaking with an asylum officer. It was during those 24 hours, they said, that CBP personnel refused to allow them “to make any calls or otherwise access legal counsel.”

They said an agent told them that no matter what happened, they would be sent back to Mexico. So, when the asylum officer asked if they wanted to wait longer in custody in order to access attorneys, the men waived that right, not wanting to spend more time in the crowded cell with their fate already decided.

The men added that they were not asked detailed questions about their medical history, even though the Biden administration’s new guidelines specify medical conditions for exemption from the program (original link). Though the guidance directs that those subject to Remain in Mexico are to receive COVID-19 vaccinations if they need them, one man who had only received the first of his two shots was sent over the border before officials could administer his vaccine.

CBP meanwhile confused the men’s paperwork, Morrissey found. Each man had the first page of the other’s notice to appear in court. And at first, they were scheduled for hearings months beyond the six-month limit that the Biden administration had agreed with Mexico. They managed to reschedule for February after raising the issue with their asylum officer.

Now in Tijuana, the Colombian men told Morrissey that they are “confused and terrified.” They refused to provide their names, fearing that their notoriety leaves them exposed to extortion or attack. “We’re the two from Colombia,” one said. “Everyone knows we’re them. We already have problems.”

— Kate Morrissey, “U.S. failure to follow Remain in Mexico rules show program hasn’t changed as promised” (San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 8, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-01-08/remain-in-mexico-returns-to-tijuana.

— Robert Silvers, “Guidance regarding the Court-Ordered Reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, December 2, 2021) https://www.dhs.gov/publication/court-ordered-reimplementation-mpp-policy-guidance.

Sector(s): San Diego, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Access to Counsel

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Colombia, Single Adult

October 13, 2021

The Central American website ContraCorriente published a Honduran family’s account of being held in Border Patrol custody in south Texas, then expelled on a flight to southern Mexico under the Title 42 pandemic policy.

For Fernando and his family, the American dream had ended just as it was beginning. As he tells us, they and about 150 other people were forced to walk from the border to the city of McAllen, Texas. They walked for about two hours and then boarded a bus that took them to the famous “hieleras” [“freezers”], as the migrants call the detention centers, whose characteristic is that they are very cold. They remained there for four days.

During their stay in the “hieleras” they had to bathe at 2 a.m. Fernando says that his girls got sick with respiratory problems. They were fed flour tortillas and lettuce. Before entering the detention center they were asked for the contact and address of the people who were waiting for them in the great country to the north. “Supposedly they were going to call them to pick us up, but from then on there was nothing, they kept us in the hielera for four days without knowing anything,” he told us.

On Wednesday, October 13, Fernando and his family were called to a room where there were other people. He’s assured that they even called his relatives, and he thought he was going to be reunited with them. They were put on a bus, taken to the airport in McAllen, and once on the plane Fernando knew something was wrong. They asked the immigration officials what was going on and they answered that they did not know: “When I least expected it, the plane landed and we saw that the airport said welcome to Villa Hermosa” [in southern Mexico].

Once they landed in the aforementioned city, jurisdiction of the State of Tabasco, the migrants demanded to know why they were left on Mexican soil if they were not originally from that country. At the airport they were picked up by Mexican immigration and boarded onto a new bus, in which they traveled to Corinto, on the border of Guatemala and Honduras. “They brought us here on bread and water,” says Fernando, touching his stomach. “They tricked us because we were supposedly going to our family, they even called them. Now they were surprised when I told them I was in Honduras. I was able to call because they gave us back our phones,” he adds.

— Allan Bu, “En la Madrugada, e Ignorados por el Estado, Llegan a Corinto Miles de Hondurenos Deportados” (Honduras: ContraCorriente, October 15, 2021) https://contracorriente.red/2021/10/15/en-la-madrugada-e-ignorados-por-el-estado-llegan-a-corinto-miles-de-hondurenos-deportados.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

February 13, 2021

The Dallas Morning News told the story of Pedro Gómez, from Guatemala, and Jhon Jairo Uscha Alcoser, from Ecuador, whom Border Patrol expelled into Mexico while injured.

The men ended up in Border Patrol custody after falling from the border wall in late January. Gómez told the Morning News:

“I couldn’t even get up, so I crawled inside the migra vehicle,” said Gomez, after falling off the wall in late January. At one point, he says he was told he was going to be taken to a U.S. hospital, but instead was dropped off at the border crossing nearly 90 miles from where he fell off the wall near El Paso. His ankles are broken and he cannot walk.

Uscha Alcoser, the Ecuadorian, “said he told Border Patrol agents he couldn’t move and was ’screaming in excruciating pain.’”

But “they said ‘stand up, stand up.’ I don’t know where I found the strength.” He says he was sent back to Mexico, dragging his feet as another migrant held him up. X-Rays later revealed broken tendons and a fractured back and pelvis, Sosa [Pastor Rosalio Sosa, who runs a network of shelters in Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico] said.

Border Patrol expelled them, using the Title 42 pandemic authority, into the small town of Palomas, across from Columbus, New Mexico, far from where they fell from the wall. The agents “dumped us in Mexico like garbage, a piece of trash,” Gómez said.

Border Patrol disputed the men’s account:

The Border Patrol said “records indicate that neither individual you mention presented illness or injury during their brief encounters with our agents.” The statement added that agents “perform their jobs with the utmost professionalism and display a high level of respect and dignity towards the many people that are encountered daily” and encouraged anyone who “believe they have been mistreated” to file a complaint.

— Alfredo Corchado, “Injured migrants say Border Patrol sent them back to Mexico after they fell off Trump’s wall” (Dallas: The Dallas Morning News, February 13, 2021) https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2021/02/14/injured-migrants-say-border-patrol-sent-them-back-to-mexico-after-they-fell-off-trumps-wall/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Disability, Ecuador, Guatemala, Medical Condition, Single Adult

Late October, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Although DHS has not released official numbers by location, local partners estimate about 100 migrants a day are being returned to Sasabe, Sonora, Mx under Title 42 expulsions. This border town, with a population around 2,500, does not have a shelter for migrants who find themselves expelled and without resources. Organized crime has significant control in Sasabe, and there is no official headquarters for Instituto National de Migración (INM). Rather, INM officials have been traveling regularly from their office in Nogales, Sonora to Sasabe to attend to migrants who have been expelled.

— “October 29 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 29, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken, Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees

Victim Classification:

August 7, 2020

NBC News reports that career officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are being sidelined by Trump administration appointees, who are ignoring their input on human rights issues.

The sidelining by the Trump appointees [Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli] is felt acutely in the agency’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, or CRCL, where employees hired to field complaints about DHS and review new policies believe they are not being heard, said the two current [DHS] officials, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

In recent months, CRCL has raised concerns about the development of a new use-of-force policy for Customs and Border Protection, the two current officials said, including concerns about the use of chemical deterrents against people trying to damage the wall on the southern U.S. border. But after raising those concerns, the office has yet to hear back on whether agents will be allowed to use chemicals to deter people trying to damage the wall.

According to recent reports, Cuccinelli removed CRCL from its usual role of reviewing the reports from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the office recently accused of collecting intelligence on journalists covering the protests in Portland, Oregon.

Sources inside DHS raise concerns to NBC about the Trump administration’s use of Border Patrol agents and other DHS personnel to confront protesters in Portland, Oregon. Nate Snyder, an Obama-era DHS counterterrorism official, tells NBC that Trump “wants his own state-run police force” that can commit “violence against protesters without coordinating with local law enforcement.”

— Julia Ainsley and Laura Strickler, “DHS staffers say Trump appointees Wolf, Cuccinelli ignoring input on protests, immigration policy” (Washington: NBC News, August 7, 2020) https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/dhs-staffers-say-trump-appointees-wolf-cuccinelli-ignoring-input-protests-n1236040.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Crowd Control, Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: DHS Employee

July 31, 2020

Border Patrol agents, including members of the Border Patrol’s SWAT team-like Tactical Unit (BORTAC), some in armored vehicles, carried out a nighttime raid on a camp near Arivaca, Arizona run by No More Deaths, a faith-based humanitarian group. “Agents zip-tied volunteers’ hands behind their backs, shouted at them with rifles raised, and confiscated their cellphones, as well as the organization’s medical records,” the Intercept reported. They arrested 37 undocumented immigrants who were receiving medical treatment at the site. Once Border Patrol arrested the migrants, agents released the No More Deaths volunteers, who found their camp severely damaged and paperwork taken away.

The agents had obtained a search warrant from a Tucson judge, which alluded to the No More Deaths camp’s possible use to harbor both undocumented migrants and illegal contraband. Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Roy Villareal tweeted a surveillance photo of a group of migrants who agents tracked through the desert into the No More Deaths camp, adding, “Not everyone we rescue or encounter is a good person. Notice the backpacks. We don’t know what’s in these backpacks. Agents often encounter narcotics smugglers with packs full of dangerous drugs, headed for our communities” (original link).

The incident recalled a June 2017 raid on the same camp. In January 2018, the group published a report accusing Border Patrol of destroying thousands of water jugs that it left in the desert to prevent migrants from succumbing to dehydration. “No More Deaths claims Friday’s raid is in retaliation to its publishing on July 29 two Border Patrol emails that the group obtained through a public records request,” the Arizona Republic reported. “The emails discuss union pressure and the participation of Border Patrol’s tactical unit in the raid on Byrd Camp on June 15, 2017.“

The Byrd Camp would be raided again on October 5, 2020.

— Ryan Devereaux, “Border Patrol Launches Militarized Raid of Borderlands Humanitarian Aid Camp” (United States, The Intercept, August 2, 2020) https://theintercept.com/2020/08/02/border-patrol-raid-arizona-no-more-deaths/.

— Rafael Carranza, “Border agents raid migrant aid camp in Arivaca for second time, group claims retaliation” (Tucson: Arizona Republic, July 31, 2020) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2020/07/31/border-patrol-raids-migrant-aid-camp-arivaca-no-more-deaths/5558639002/.

— Rafael Carranza, “Border aid group assessing aftermath of Border Patrol raid on medical camp” (Tucson: Arizona Republic, August 3, 2020) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2020/08/03/no-more-deaths-border-patrol-raid-aftermath/5578091002/.

Twitter thread by @USBPChiefTCA (Tucson: Twitter, July 31, 2020) https://twitter.com/USBPChiefTCA/status/1289349801922813952.

— BrieAnna J. Frank, “Border Patrol arrests 4 migrants at Arizona desert aid camp” (Tucson: Arizona Republic, June 15, 2017) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2017/06/16/border-patrol-arrests-no-more-deaths-medical-aid-camp-arizona/402478001/.

Part II: Interference with Humanitarian Aid Death and Disappearance on the US–Mexico Border (Arizona: No More Deaths, 2018) http://www.thedisappearedreport.org/uploads/8/3/5/1/83515082/disappeared_report_part_2.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, BORTAC

Event Type(s): Intimidation of Humanitarian Workers

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Advocate or Humanitarian Worker, U.S. Citizen or Resident

Early May 2020

The El Paso Times (May 5) and Arizona Public Media (May 7) separately reported that Border Patrol agents and CBP officers had been neglecting to wear face masks or practice social distancing in their interactions with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic’s early months. “There is a time and place for the mask. Maybe it doesn’t suit to everyone’s desires, but people should be given an option. We’re still all American citizens,” John Monahan, a CBP officer and union representative in El Paso, told the El Paso Times.

— Lauren Villagran, “Border patrol agents, officers say they have access to PPE. So why aren’t they all using it?” (El Paso: El Paso Times, May 5, 2020) https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2020/05/05/cbp-border-officers-lax-using-protective-gear-coronavirus-covid-19/3079923001/.

— Alisa Reznick, “Border residents: Border Patrol agents not wearing protective gear at checkpoints” (Arizona: Arizona Public Media, May 7, 2020) https://www.azpm.org/s/76269-border-residents-border-patrol-agents-not-wearing-protective-gear-at-checkpoints/.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office, Tucson, Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Disregard of Public Health

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: