25 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct involving “Border Patrol” where the victim classification is “Mexico”

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return of a Mexican migrant’s belongings.

BP apprehended Ronel [name changed to protect privacy] and brought him to Florence, AZ to be detained. BP agents took all of his belongings- his cell phone, money, and legal documents- and did not return them upon his deportation. Ronel was thus stranded in Nogales, Sonora without any identification, money or way to contact his family. 

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents.

BP apprehend Brayan [name changed to protect privacy] and confiscated all his personal belongings- $1,800 pesos ($89 USD), a chain with a diamond ring that his father had given to him, a Bible, the keys to his home, his cell phone with all of his contacts, his Mexican IDs, and birth certificate. BP thus deported Brayan to Nogales, Sonora without any of the resources necessary to return home and without the personal items with sentimental value that had helped sustain him in his journey.

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return and destruction of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents.

When BP apprehended Samuel [name changed to protect privacy], agents confiscated all his belongings. They took his phone and removed the SIM card and pocketed it, took his wallet that had $300 in it and removed the credit cards and pocketed them as well. They ripped up his birth certificate in front of him.The agents were speaking in English amongst themselves, so he couldn’t understand what they were saying. He was only able to save his Mexican ID because he had previously hid it in his shoe.

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Early August, 2022

“In the past 2 weeks, Kino has served 16 people that DHS has deported between 12 am and 3 am,” the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on August 18.

Julia [name changed to protect privacy] and her 7 year old daughter fled Guerrero due to threats of sexual violence toward herself and her daughter. When they crossed into the US, BP detained them and Julia explained she wanted to seek asylum due to violence in Mexico. But BP just took their bio information, without asking further inquiring about their fear, and deported them to Mexico at 3 a.m., placing Julia and her daughter in danger of potentially experiencing the very sexual violence they were fleeing. 

— “August 18 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 18, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

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

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported a significant case of non-return of migrants’ valuable belongings:

Last weekend, ICE deported a group of 12 migrants to Nogales after being detained. Every person reported that upon their encounter with BP, agents took away all their belongings and said they would return them upon arriving in Tucson, which never happened. When they arrived in Nogales, their belongings still had not been returned. Items confiscated included money (one individual lost $200 USD), wallets, phones, and jewelry with sentimental value. One person from the group shared that he witnessed a Border Patrol agent take $3,000 pesos [about US$150] from another migrant and rip it up in his face saying, “This is trash, this is of no value to you here,” before throwing the ripped bills in the trash can.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported the case of a migrant who had precious belongings taken from him in Border Patrol custody:

BP [Border Patrol] took Miguel’s* [name changed for privacy reasons] clothes, underwear, Mexican ID, phone, Bible and rosary. His phone contained all his family members’ phone numbers, as well as family photos. Upon deportation, he wasn’t able to contact his family until he borrowed someone else’s phone to search for them on Facebook. Though he was eventually able to make contact, he will never get his family photos back. He commented to KBI staff that although a rosary may not be of much value to some people, his faith sustained him during the journey.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Mid-July, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on severe brutality that a Mexican man allegedly suffered at the hands of a Border Patrol agent:

Benjamín [Name changed to protect privacy] had been in the desert for 8 days when BP encountered him at 4 in the morning. He did not run, but the agent handcuffed him. When Benjamín asked for a drink of water, the BP agent threw him face down onto the ground, began kicking him and stood on the back of his head, which was pushed into a rock until his head was cut open and bleeding. The agent yelled, “If you want water, go get it in your own country! You only come here to f*ck around!” Benjamín eventually lost consciousness. When he came to, another agent sent his search dog to lick the blood from his face. BP took Benjamín to the hospital, only after he asked repeatedly for medical attention. BP then deported him to Mexico without any of his medical paperwork, which Benjamín reports an agent hid in his shirt. Upon arriving at Kino, he shared: “I’m trying to escape death in my country, only to nearly die here [in the US].”

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

June 30, 2022

A Border Patrol-involved vehicle pursuit on Interstate Highway 35, reaching speeds of 90-100 miles per hour, ended in a crash that killed four of seven migrants aboard a Jeep Wrangler in Encinal, Texas (original link). The deceased were male citizens of Mexico and Guatemala.

“This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and reviewed by CBP’s OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility],” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Failure to yield leads to fatal crash off Interstate Highway 35 in Encinal, Texas” (Washington: CBP, July 5, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/failure-yield-leads-fatal-crash-interstate-highway-35-encinal.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Mexico, Single Adult

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on a Mexican couple whose belongings and medicine were confiscated while in Border Patrol custody.

Humberto [Name changed to protect privacy] together with his wife fled corruption in southern Mexico to migrate to the US and reunite with their US citizen children. …Once they turned themselves in to Border Patrol, the agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported that “Border Patrol agents continue to use COVID as a pretext to expel or deport migrants at night, despite previous Local Repatriation Agreements developed for migrant safety.”

* Testimony from arriving migrants and Kino staff confirm that hundreds of migrants have been expelled to Nogales, Mexico between 12AM and 3AM during the last two weeks. 

* Individuals arriving at Kino earlier this week after being deported at 3AM reported that they had not slept since they were detained. 

* Eliseo [Name changed to protect privacy], a middle-aged Mexican man who wanted to seek work in the US so he could save up to return to his hometown and finish constructing a church there, was deported to Mexico with a group of migrants around midnight. Since he did not have anywhere to go, he and about a dozen other migrants slept in the park downtown.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Early June, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican husband and wife who turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near Nogales, Arizona. “The agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.”

— “June 9 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 9, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico

May 24, 2022

In circumstances that remain to be clarified, an unnamed Border Patrol agent killed a Mexican migrant in Douglas, Arizona after midnight (original link). Abigail Roman Aguilar, 32, from Chiapas, Mexico, died of stab wounds to the upper chest (“sharp force injuries of the trunk”), according to the Pima County Medical Examiner, which ruled the death a homicide on June 17, 2022. The Medical Examiner’s report also noted blunt force injuries to Aguilar’s head, trunk, and extremities (original link).

The Arizona Daily Star reported on June 18:

On May 24, Aguilar was admitted to the Copper Queen Community Hospital in Douglas with face and lip injuries following a barb wire incident while running from the United States Border Patrol, the autopsy report said. After he was discharged from the hospital, he was reportedly involved in an altercation with a Border Patrol agent, who ultimately stabbed Aguilar with a knife.

The May 24 incident is under FBI investigation, and being reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, after which it is to go to CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board. In an e-mail to the Arizona Republic, a spokesperson for the FBI Phoenix office said only that its investigation into an “assault on a federal officer” was ongoing.

This is the second agent-involved killing near Douglas since February 19, when Agent Kendrek Bybee Staheli shot and killed Mexican migrant Carmelo Cruz-Marcos.

— “Statement-Use of Force Incident-Douglas, AZ” (Tucson: Customs and Border Protection, May 24, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-use-force-incident-douglas-az.

— Clara Migoya, “1 dead in Douglas after ‘use of force’ confrontation with Border Patrol” (Arizona: Arizona Republic, May 25, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2022/05/25/1-dead-douglas-after-confrontation-border-patrol-agent/9926410002/.

— Jamie Donnelly, “Report: Migrant stabbed to death by Border Patrol agent in Douglas” (Tucson: Arizona Daily Star, June 18, 2022) https://tucson.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/report-migrant-stabbed-to-death-by-border-patrol-agent-in-douglas/article_dcf55a68-ef32-11ec-b15a-17f8ed410de1.html.

— Mary Coleman, Tweet from Mary Coleman KOLD @Mary_reports (Twitter, June 17, 2022) https://twitter.com/Mary_reports/status/1537902526128721927.

— Gloria Rebecca Gomez, Angela Cordoba Perez, Clara Migoya, “Autopsy report determines migrant was stabbed to death by CBP agent in Douglas” (Phoenix: Arizona Republic, June 22, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2022/06/22/autopsy-report-migrant-stabbed-death-cbp-agent-douglas/7684477001/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Mid-April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about Border Patrol confiscating asylum-seeking migrants’ mobile phones before expelling them into Nogales, Mexico under Title 42.

A young Mexican woman left her hometown because she had received death threats. She arrived at the border earlier this month and attempted to cross into the US. She was detained by Border Patrol agents who confiscated her belongings, including her cell phone. When she was going to be expelled into Mexico, a Border Patrol agent asked her to sign a paper saying that she would return in 30 days to collect her belongings. She asked the BP agent, “How will I collect my belongings in 30 days? Do I have to climb over the wall again?” The Border Patrol agent just laughed and said he didn’t know. Border Patrol also confiscated several other women ‘s phones from the same group. A few of them were crying because they did not know their family members’ phone numbers to contact them. One young woman in the group was from an indigenous community in southern Mexico and did not speak Spanish. She had been separated from her husband and now had no way to contact him.

— “April 28 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 28, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Indigenous, Mexico, Single Adult

Early March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican man expelled to Nogales by Border Patrol agents who did not return his group’s mobile phones:

A young Mexican father who was expelled to Nogales last week reported that Border Patrol had confiscated his cell phone and that of 4 others traveling in the group with him and never returned their phones. The man expressed through tears that the phone itself did not matter much to him, but that he could never replace the photos of his daughter and videos from her birthday celebration that were saved on the phone.

— “March 17 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 17, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

February 19, 2022

News reporting datelined February 20 and 21 pointed to Border Patrol personnel shooting a migrant to death in an incident on the night of February 19, on a desert trail about 30 miles northeast of Douglas, Arizona. In a February 23 statement, CBP confirmed that as two Border Patrol agents were intercepting a group of migrants, one of the agents followed a migrant who attempted to escape and, “while taking him into custody discharged his firearm fatally wounding the migrant, tentatively identified as a citizen of Mexico” (original link). The agents were later identified as Kendrek Bybee Staheli, who fired the weapon, and Tristan Tang.

On the evening of February 24, the Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff’s Department posted a statement conveying the agent’s claims that 32-year-old Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, of Puebla, Mexico, resisted capture “then ran approximately six feet away before picking up a large rock and turning back towards the agent making a throwing motion with the hand that held the rock.” The agent then “fired his weapon an unknown number of times as he was in fear for his life and safety” (original link).

The agents requested medical assistance and Cruz-Marcos’s body was airlifted out the next day. As of February 24, 2022, the Cochise County Sheriff was investigating the shooting, as was the Pima County (Tucson area) Medical Examiner’s Office. The Medical Examiner determined that Cruz-Marcos died of multiple gunshot wounds. CBP notified the Mexican consulate, which confirmed that the decedent was a Mexican citizen. CBP reported that its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was also reviewing the incident, as would CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

Investigators must determine whether the shooting was truly an act of self-defense or otherwise fell within CBP’s use of force guidelines, which prohibit using firearms “in response to thrown or launched projectiles unless the officer/agent has a reasonable belief, based on the totality of circumstances, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death” (original link).

“There are multiple red flags in this investigation” so far, a February 23 statement from the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) contended. It noted that the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) disclosed on February 19 that Border Patrol had killed a migrant, then “removed that statement in subsequent press releases.” SBCC adds:

Instead of the CCSO processing the scene immediately, they waited a day. Even though the other migrants in the area were taken by agents to a Border Patrol station right away, CCSO did not recover the body of the deceased migrant until the following day. The CCSO does not appear to have collected any forensic evidence at all until the next day, including from the agent involved (clothing, fingerprints, ballistics or any other relevant evidence). Instead, they ceded the incident area to border agents who could have tampered with the scene.

SBCC has spearheaded an effort to shed light on Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs), secretive units that often arrive quickly at scenes of possible use-of-force violations like this one. The teams allegedly have a record of interfering with investigations and seeking to build narratives that might exonerate the Border Patrol agents involved.

In April 2022, the Los Angeles-based law firm Karns & Karns, LLP announced that it would be representing Carmelo Cruz-Marcos’s family in a federal tort claim—a precursor to a lawsuit—against Border Patrol. The claim appears to confirm that a Border Patrol Critical Incident Team took part in the investigation. The Tucson Sentinel reported that SBCC and the law firm “argued that the agents ‘prevented’ Cochise County officials from ‘immediately accessing the scene to conduct their own investigation.'”

The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office report on the incident, shared by the Intercept in May 2022, confirms that a Critical Incident Team was on the scene after the shooting. It also cites an English-speaking migrant who had accompanied Cruz-Marcos. That witness claims that he heard Agent Staheli shout “This is America motherf—” shortly before shots were fired. He also alleged that “Agent Tang had told Agent Staheli ‘it would all be ok and that he had his back.’ Carlos further said he heard Agent Tang tell Agent Staheli that he should say he was attacked with a rock.”

“Witnesses to the shooting say Carmelo was never a threat to any Border Patrol agent,” read a news release from the law firm. “The family is demanding an independent investigation of the incident by the FBI and an outside agency that can verify the evidence and facts.”

In a May 6 letter to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre found insufficient evidence to contradict Agent Staheli’s account of the shooting, declining to move forward with a prosecution.

Five members of the group that traveled with Cruz-Marcos later said they were held in detention for a month and a half as witnesses to the shooting. They reported that CBP did not return their money or identification documents.

— “CBP Statement on Agent-Involved Fatal Shooting near Douglas, Ariz.” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, February 23, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-near-douglas-ariz.

— “Sheriffʼs Office Investigates Agent Involved Incident” (Cochise County: Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, February 24, 2022) https://www.facebook.com/CochiseSO/posts/323152363179815.

— “US border agent kills man on rugged trail in Arizona” (Douglas: Associated Press, February 21, 2022) https://apnews.com/article/shootings-arizona-border-patrols-de7f3334b7a06e422d1a4de77dda1354.

— “Migrant killed by Border Patrol agent in Arizona, sheriff’s office says” (Cochise County: Fox 10 Phoenix, February 20, 2022) https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/undocumented-immigrant-killed-by-border-patrol-agent-in-arizona-sheriffs-office-says.

— Paul Ingram, “Migrant killed by Border Patrol agent died from ‘multiple gunshot wounds'” (Tucson: Tucson Sentinel, February 23, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/022222_bp_shooting/migrant-killed-by-border-patrol-agent-died-from-multiple-gunshot-wounds/.

CBP Use of Force Policy (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2021-Jul/cbp-use-of-force-policy_4500-002A.pdf.

— “Recent Killing By Border Patrol Another Example of Compromised Investigations and Possible Cover-Up” (Southern Border Communities Coalition, February 23, 2022) https://www.southernborder.org/recent_killing_by_border_patrol_another_example_of_compromised_investigations_and_possible_cover-up.

— Paul Ingram, “Family of man killed by BP agent near Douglas demands probe, may pursue lawsuit” (Tucson: The Tucson Sentinel, April 12, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/041222_bp_shooting_probe/family-man-killed-by-bp-agent-near-douglas-demands-probe-may-pursue-lawsuit/.

— Paul Ingram, “Border Patrol’s forensic teams being eliminated after ‘cover up’ allegations” (Tucson: Tucson Sentinel, May 6, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/050622_critical_incident_teams/border-patrols-forensic-teams-being-eliminated-after-cover-up-allegations/.

— Danyelle Khmara, “No charges in fatal shooting by Border Patrol agent in Arizona” (Tucson: Arizona Daily Star, May 10, 2022) https://tucson.com/news/local/border/no-charges-in-fatal-shooting-by-border-patrol-agent-in-arizona/article_00e44308-cfbc-11ec-8249-fb2c6862d456.html.

— “Office Report for Incident 22-03910” (Cochise County: Cochise County Sheriff, March 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22005859-cochise-county-sheriff-investigation-into-border-patrol-killing-of-cruz-marcos.

— Ryan Devereaux, “‘This Is America Motherfucker’: Witnesses Describe Border Patrol Killing of Mexican Migrant” (United States, The Intercept, May 12, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/05/12/border-patrol-migrant-killing-coverup/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

December 3, 2021

Agents in two Border Patrol vehicles pursued a Ford F-150 pickup truck they suspected of carrying undocumented migrants near Encino, Texas, about 51 miles north of the border. The truck refused to pull over.

Agents alerted Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS, highway police). A DPS officer, accompanied by two Border Patrol agents, deployed a vehicle immobilization device. The driver sought to avoid it but struck solar panels near the roadside and rolled over.

“An occupant of the F-150, a male citizen of Mexico, was ejected from the vehicle when it rolled over,” CBP reported (original link). The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

As of December 6, 2021, the incident was being investigated by the Texas DPS and reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Starr County, Texas Justice of the Peace. The DHS Office of Inspector-General was also notified.

— “CBP statement on death of Mexican man after he was ejected from a vehicle following failure to yield near La Gloria, Texas” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, December 6, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-death-mexican-man-after-he-was-ejected-vehicle.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

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: Mexico, Single Adult

October 27, 2021

The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) surfaced the issue of Border Patrol’s “Critical Incident Teams,” which often arrive at the scene when agents may have committed wrongdoing. The SBCC submitted a letter to congressional leaders requesting that they hold hearings into these units’ activities. While Critical Incident Teams may have other roles, coming up with exculpatory evidence to protect agents strongly appears to be one of them. No other law enforcement agency, the SBCC contends, has a similar capability, and the Teams’ existence is not specifically authorized by law.

SBCC was alerted to the teams’ role while carrying out advocacy around the case of Anastasio Hernández, a Mexican citizen whom border agents beat and tasered to death in a 2010 case caught on cellphone video. The Coalition found that a Critical Incident Team failed to notify San Diego police, controlled police investigators’ witness lists, tampered with evidence, sought to obtain Hernández’s medical records, failed to preserve video evidence, and “contacted the FBI and asked them to charge Anastasio with assault while he lay brain dead in the hospital. The FBI declined.”

Critical Incident Teams have existed in some form at least since 1987. (Their “challenge coin,” depicted in SBCC’s document, says “Est. May 21, 2001” and includes images of a chalk outline and a rolled-over vehicle.) They are almost never mentioned in Border Patrol or CBP statements. “Their existence poses a threat to public safety,” SBCC argued, “by concealing agent misconduct, enabling abuse, and exacerbating impunity within the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Immediate investigations into BPCITs are imperative.”

A January 10, 2022 front-page New York Times story about Border Patrol vehicle pursuit tactics included an account of Critical Incident Teams’ presence after an August 3 crash in New Mexico:

Body camera footage from a state police officer captured one of the Border Patrol agents saying: “Our critical incident team is coming out. They’ll do all the crime scene stuff—well, not crime scene, but critical incident scene.” The agent said that he and his colleague would give statements to the team, which it would share with the police.

This article also noted Critical Incident Teams’ role in the Border Patrol shooting of Mexican migrant Marisol Gómez Alcántara while she sat in the backseat of a vehicle in Nogales, Arizona.

CBP briefed House members about the Critical Incident Teams in late 2021, but this “did not fully address our questions,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the New York Times. As subsequent information requests got no replies from the agency, Congress issued two letters on January 24, 2022. Ten chairpeople of House and Senate Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Oversight committees and subcommittees wrote to Comptroller-General Gene Dodaro, who heads the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO, the Congress’s auditing and investigative arm), asking GAO to produce ar report about the teams (original link). The chairs of the House Homeland Security and Oversight Committees, Rep. Thompson and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) wrote to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, informing him in a more strongly worded message that they are launching their own joint investigation into the Critical Incident Teams (original link). The Thompson-Maloney letter required that CBP turn over a list of documents by February 7.

Bloomberg Government asked CBP Commissioner Magnus, a former Tucson, Arizona police chief who has been in his position since early December, about the Critical Incident Teams. A statement responded that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s specialized teams are ‘vitally important’ in the collection and processing of evidence related to enforcement activities,” Bloomberg reported. Magnus said that CBP would work with the committees and with GAO.

A May 3, 2022 memorandum from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus terminated the Critical Incident Teams, transferring their duties to CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (original link). “By the end of FY [Fiscal Year] 22,” it reads, “USBP will eliminate all Critical Incident Teams and personnel assigned to USBP will no longer respond to critical incidents for scene processing or evidence collection.”

An August 11, 2022 letter from the SBCC warned that “the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is hiring” members of the to-be-dissolved Critical Incident Teams. OPR is CBP’s internal affairs body that investigates and sanctions agents for misconduct, including improper use of force.

— Vicki B. Gaubeca, Andrea Guerrero, “Request for congressional investigations and oversight hearings on the unlawful operation of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs)” (San Diego: Southern Border Communities Coalition, October 27, 2021) https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/alliancesandiego/pages/3292/attachments/original/1635367319/SBCC_letter_to_Congress_Final_10.27.21.pdf?1635367319.

— Eileen Sullivan, “Democrats in Congress Seek Review of Teams Within the Border Patrol” (New York: The New York Times, January 24, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/us/politics/border-patrol-critical-incident-teams.html.

— “Oversight and Homeland Security Chairs Request Information from Customs and Border Protection on Potential Misconduct of Specialized Teams” (Washington: U.S. House of Representatives, January 24, 2022) https://homeland.house.gov/news/correspondence/oversight-and-homeland-security-chairs-request-information-from-customs-and-border-protection-on-potential-misconduct-of-specialized-teams.

— “House & Senate Committee Leaders Request GAO Audit of CBP ‘Critical Incident Teams’” (Washington: U.S. House of Representatives, January 24, 2022) https://homeland.house.gov/news/correspondence/house-and-senate-committee-leaders-request-gao-audit-of-cbp-critical-incident-teams.

— “CBP Eliminates Border Patrol Cover-Up Units” (Southern Border: Southern Border Communities Coalition, May 6, 2022) https://www.southernborder.org/for_immediate_release_cbp_eliminates_border_patrol_cover-up_units.

— Chris Magnus, “Critical Incident Response Transition and Support” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, May 3, 2022. https://assets.nationbuilder.com/alliancesandiego/pages/409/attachments/original/1651850948/Critical_Incident_Response_Signed_Distribution_Memo_%28508%29.pdf?1651850948

— Vicki Gaubeca, Andrea Guerrero, “New information that raises the stakes on the investigation of Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs) and implicates other parts of CBP” (San Diego: Southern Border Communities Coalition, August 11, 2022) https://assets.nationbuilder.com/alliancesandiego/pages/409/attachments/original/1660253686/Letter_to_Congress_re_BPCIT_Aug_2022_r1.pdf?1660253686.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Under Congressional Investigation, Under GAO Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico, Single Adult

September 25, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “J.N.L.,” a Mexican migrant who claimed that he and his minor son suffered physical abuse and abusive language while attempting to turn themselves in to a Border Patrol agent in El Paso.

On Sept. 25, at around 6:30 p.m., my son and I crossed the Rio Grande River to the United States at the height of Oro Street, where the train ended. When we crossed there, we stayed because we saw that the border patrol truck was coming. When it arrived, an officer got out quickly and screamed at us. It seemed like he was under the influence of some drug because out of nowhere, he grabbed my son by his shirt and pressed him down against the gravel. I told him, “buddy, you cannot treat my son like that; he is a minor. He is only 13 years old, and I will report it.”

He threw me face first and then grabbed me by my neck. I felt he was suffocating me. He yelled at me and told me to go ahead and report him and called me “trash.” He said, “I am not your buddy; I am an immigration officer.”

We never tried to run. He seemed to have a Dominican accent. He called on the radio for backup, and soon other officers arrived in a gray-colored uniform. I realized they were sheriff officers.

I told the sheriff officers about the mistreatment my son received from the Border Patrol officer. I asked them if I could report it. They responded that they were county officials and they were there to transfer us to get fingerprinted. I was nervous and scared and did not notice the patrol number or names. They took our fingerprints and then took us over the bridge to Juárez.

My right arm hurts, and my neck hurts even from drinking water. My son is also sore and in pain. This was not fair treatment.

The Border Network for Human Rights stated that it shared this and other testimonies in its February 2022 abuse monitoring report “with the agencies involved.”

The State of Human Rights at the U.S. – Mexico Border: Abuse Documentation 2022 Campaign Report (El Paso, Border Network for Human Rights, February 22, 2022) https://bnhr.org/abuse-documentation-2022-campaign-report/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Mexico

June 17, 2021

A CBP release described a Border Patrol chase that ended with a fatal vehicle crash, after an agent deployed a vehicle immobilization device across an Arizona highway (original link).

On June 17, 2021, a Border Patrol Agent (BPA) observed two suspected undocumented migrants getting into a vehicle along Arizona State Route 85 (SR 85), approximately one and a half miles north of the Lukeville, AZ Port of Entry. Approximately 20 miles north of where the suspected undocumented migrants entered the vehicle, another BPA waiting on SR 85, activated his emergency lights and sirens and attempted to stop the vehicle. The vehicle did not stop and continued for approximately one mile, where another BPA deployed a vehicle immobilization device (VID) across the roadway. The driver of the suspected smuggling vehicle attempted to avoid running over the VID and subsequently lost control and crashed.

One of the two undocumented migrants in the vehicle, a male citizen of Mexico, was in critical condition and was transported to the Abrazo West Medical Center in Goodyear, AZ where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries on June 19, 2021.

This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was also notified of the incident.

— “Failure to Yield Results in Death” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, June 21, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/failure-yield-results-death-0.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

June 16, 2021

A Border Patrol agent in Nogales, Arizona fired a 9 millimeter handgun round at a white Kia SUV, striking Marisol García Alcántara, a 37-year-old undocumented Mexican mother of three who was riding in the vehicle’s backseat. Ms. García Alcántara was struck in the head and wounded.

On December 9, 2021, Ms. García Alcántara filed a Federal Torts Claim Act claim with CBP seeking compensation for the injuries she suffered (original link). This is a required step before filing a lawsuit. It claims that Ms. García Alcántara was “unarmed and defenseless, and represented no risk of harm to anyone,” and that she “does not know the name of the agent who employed this deadly force.”

According to the police report, a Border Patrol agent told Nogales police that “all he could say was that they had a fail to yield with the Kia, and one shot was fired. Agent Serrano [Border Patrol Supervisor T. Serrano #N55] did not provide me with further information” (original link).

Ms. García Alcántara disputes whether the vehicle in which she was a passenger failed to yield. “The car was slowing down to comply when she felt a strike to her head,” she told the San Diego Union Tribune.

After the incident, she was taken to Tucson for brain surgery. She spent three days in the hospital, was taken to the Florence, Arizona ICE detention facility, and was deported to Mexico on July 15, 2021. She was not interviewed by any agency investigating her shooting. “No one investigated. I returned to Mexico without making a declaration,” she told the Associated Press.

As a result of her bullet wound, the claim states, Ms. García Alcántara has “bullet fragments… lodged in her brain, with permanent life-long consequences. The injuries included intra-cranial hemorrhage, skull fracture, orbital fracture, with bullet and broken bone fragments entering her left frontal lobe.” The Union Tribune reported that Ms. García Alcántara “said she has dizzy spells, excruciating headaches and memory loss. Doctors also told her she’s at risk of becoming epileptic or suffering from facial paralysis in the future.” The BBC reported that she has problems remembering names and words.

A Border Patrol Critical Incident Team (CIT) and FBI agents later arrived on scene. The agency’s secretive CITs have come under increasing scrutiny since October 27, 2021, when an investigation by the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) alleged that one of their main roles is to gather evidence that might exonerate agents after an abuse occurs. “Marisol’s ability to seek justice, beginning with the filing of the FTCA claim, may be adversely affected by the actions of the CIT,” the SBCC wrote in December 2021.

Ms. Gómez Alcántara was among victims who spoke at a May 2022 SBCC press conference calling for the CITs’ abolition; a May 3, 2022 memorandum from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus terminated the controversial units.

As of mid-December 2021, no information about this investigation’s findings has been made public. “The U.S. government’s decision to release only limited information about her case highlights how federal law enforcement agencies – which have a large, highly visible presence in Nogales – often feel little obligation to explain their actions to the public following use-of-force incidents,” Nogales International stated in a detailed October 2021 recounting of Ms. Gómez Alcántara’s story. The Associated Press reported in December 2021 that CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was investigating the incident, as was CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

On December 23, 2021, a letter from CBP to an attorney representing Ms. García Alcántara requested information and documents about her medical treatments. If the agency does not report on its investigation by June 20, 2022, her attorney plans to file suit in federal court.

“I am asking for justice so they don’t keep doing this,” García Alcántara told the Union Tribune. “I am also asking for a public apology from the person who did this. I’d like to know why he did this to me since I didn’t do anything to him.”

— “Officer Report for Incident 210006105” (Nogales: Nogales Police Department, June 16, 2021) https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4r5dzamxq8fjzon/AABmConSjaFosUR6BRgh88Ula?dl=0&preview=Exhibit+E+-+Nogales+PD+report.pdf&emci=4a0bacf1-b15d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&emdi=50f09884-b35d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&ceid=6137030.

— Eugene Iredale, “Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death” (San Diego: Iredale & Yoo A.P.C., December 9, 2021) https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/alliancesandiego/pages/3292/attachments/original/1639508803/Claim_Form_95_Signed_and_Redacted.pdf?1639508803=&emci=4a0bacf1-b15d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&emdi=50f09884-b35d-ec11-94f6-0050f2e65e9b&ceid=6137030.

— “Marisol García Alcantara was shot by Border Patrol then deported now filing a claim against CBP” (San Diego: Southern Border Communities Coalition, December 15, 2021) https://www.southernborder.org/marisol_garcia_alcantara_was_shot_by_border_patrol_then_deported_now_filing_a_claim_against_cbp.

— Nick Phillips, “Woman shot in head by Border Patrol seeks answers” (Nogales: Nogales International, October 8, 2021) https://www.nogalesinternational.com/news/woman-shot-in-head-by-border-patrol-seeks-answers/article_0aae589a-2843-11ec-8050-df7bb17fa8bc.html.

— Kate Morrissey, “Woman shot in head by Border Patrol agent files claim for damages” (San Diego, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 15, 2021) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2021-12-15/woman-shot-border-patrol-agent-claim.

— Anita Snow, “Mexican woman shot in head by US Border Patrol files claim” (Phoenix: Associated Press, December 15, 2021) https://apnews.com/article/shootings-arizona-22a67bc78bde39e2087a1d5a6c32097d.

— “Marisol García Alcántara, la mexicana que sobrevivió a un disparo de la Patrulla Fronteriza (y ahora va a demandar a EE.UU.)” (BBC News Mundo, La Prensa Libre, May 11, 2022) https://www.prensalibre.com/internacional/bbc-news-mundo-internacional/marisol-garcia-alcantara-la-mexicana-que-sobrevivio-a-un-disparo-de-la-patrulla-fronteriza-y-ahora-va-a-demandar-a-ee-uu/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed, Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico, Single Adult

Late April, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A young Mexican man expelled under Title 42 this week reported to KBI that Border Patrol agents left them in downtown Nogales, Sonora around 2:30AM. The group was afraid to walk through town at night, so they waited outside by the port of entry without any protection from organized crime groups, which are known to patrol this area, for 4 hours until the sun came up.

— “April 29 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 29, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

March 23, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK recounted Border Patrol agents’ refusal to allow a Mexican migrant in custody to report a drug-related crime.

A Mexican man entered the United States when individuals associated with organized crime demanded he carry a backpack full of drugs into the United States and threatened him with a razor. When he refused, they beat him.

Once the Mexican man regained consciousness, he turned himself in to Border Patrol. He told agents what happened to him, where Border Patrol could find the drugs and the men who assaulted him who belonged to a criminal gang. Still, the agents kept the man in the vehicle the whole day, picking up other immigrants and giving him only water to drink.

Once they came to the CBP facility and he was processed, he repeated what had happened to him. The CBP agent there laughed and asked if he wanted to file a police report. When he said yes, the agent said it would take too long.

He was never given an opportunity to express his fears about returning to Mexico or give information about the crime that had been committed against him. He was never given medical attention while in CBP custody and was left alone in a cell for long stretches of time despite his weakened state. He was soon expelled back to Mexico.

KBI filed a March 29, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On April 23, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

January 27, 2021

Relatives of Anastasio Hernández Rojas filed a brief before the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission, contending that Border Patrol covered up, and improperly interfered with the investigation of, agents’ role in Hernández’s 2010 death. Video showed numerous Border Patrol agents and CBP officers beating and tasing a hogtied and handcuffed Hernández to death.

The brief contended that the acting deputy chief patrol agent in Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector at the time, Rodney Scott, signed a potentially illegal subpoena to obtain Hernández’s autopsy. (Scott went on to be Border Patrol chief from 2020 to 2021.) It argued that David Aguilar, then the commissioner of CBP, also argued that the use of force against Hernández was justified. It cited John Edward Dupuy, DHS’s assistant inspector general for investigations from 2012 to 2015, who called the DHS Inspector-General’s role “an example of a pattern of dereliction of duty that I observed from the DHS OIG Office of Investigation San Diego field office in investigations involving allegations of use of force by federal agents.”

“The affidavits show that the Border Patrol’s ability to cover its tracks in use-of-force cases, including killings, was built into the agency’s structure,” read an overview published on February 4, 2021 by the Intercept.

— Roxanna Altholtz, Andrea Guerrero, “Additional Observations on Merits” (San Diego: International Human Rights Law Clinic, University of California, Berkeley School of Law and Alliance San Diego, January 27, 2021) https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/alliancesandiego/pages/3138/attachments/original/1612382784/210127_Additional_Observations_on_Merits_Case_14042.pdf?1612382784.

— “Death on the Border: Shocking Video Shows Mexican Immigrant Beaten and Tased by Border Patrol Agents” (United States: Democracy Now! April 24, 2012) https://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/24/death_on_the_border_shocking_video.

— Ryan Devereaux, “Border Patrol Beat an Immigrant to Death and Then Covered It Up” (United States: The Intercept, February 4, 2021) https://theintercept.com/2021/02/04/border-patrol-killing-impunity-iachr/.

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

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Before Inter-American Human Rights System, Cleared by DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

October 23, 2020

Border Patrol agent Ryan Gonsalves shot and killed David Angel Villalobos-Baldovinos, a Mexican citizen and Tijuana resident who allegedly tried to enter the United States illegally. Gonsalves confronted Villalobos-Baldovinos near the Las Américas outlet mall next to the San Ysidro port of entry. “An alleged scuffle unfolded, and the agent shot Villalobos-Baldovinos once in his upper body,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. “The agent suffered minor injuries, though police did not elaborate on the extent of the injuries.”

San Diego police were investigating the shooting. “We’re still putting the pieces together on this,” police Lt. Andra Brown told the Union-Tribune on October 27.

Villalobos-Baldovinos reportedly had family on both sides of the border. He was briefly jailed in San Diego in 2019 for the misdemeanor charge of improper entry (original link).

This would be the first of two Border Patrol-involved fatal shootings in the agency’s San Diego sector within the space of six months. Agents would shoot and kill Silvestre Vargas Estrada on May 14, 2021.

— Brenda Gregorio-Nieto, “One Dead in Shooting Involving Border Patrol Near Las Americas Premium Outlets” (San Diego: NBC 7 San Diego, October 25, 2020) https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/us-border-patrol-involved-in-shooting-in-san-ysidro/2430349/.

19-2881 – USA v. Villalobos-Valdovinos (San Diego: U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, July 30, 2019) https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/USCOURTS-casd-3_19-cr-02881/context.

— David Hernandez, “Police release name of man fatally shot by Border Patrol agent” (San Diego, San Diego Union-Tribune, October 27, 2020) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2020-10-27/police-release-name-of-man-fatally-shot-by-border-patrol-agent.

— “Border Patrol Agent Who Fatally Shot Suspected Border-Jumper ID’d” (San Diego: City News Service, NBC 7 San Diego, November 3, 2020) https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/border-patrol-agent-who-fatally-shot-suspected-border-jumper-idd/2435819/.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

July 1, 2020

A Border Patrol agent “inadvertently” ran over a 29-year-old Mexican man while pursuing him and two other migrants in a vehicle near El Paso’s Ysleta Port of Entry, El Paso Matters reported. “The man sustained non-life-threatening injuries to his leg and torso. He was treated and medically cleared July 3 and returned to Mexico,” Border Patrol spokesman George Gomez said.

“We are disturbed about how Border Patrol is handling this situation,” Astrid Dominguez of the ACLU’s Border Rights Center told El Paso Matters. “The agency claims there is an ongoing investigation but the victim has already been deported. Anytime that a law enforcement agency hurts an individual, they must report it to the public—not wait until someone inquires about it.”

— René Kladzyk, “El Paso Border Patrol agent runs over migrant with vehicle” (El Paso: El Paso Matters, July 9, 2020) https://elpasomatters.org/2020/07/09/el-paso-border-patrol-agent-runs-over-migrant-with-vehicle/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Pedestrian Strike, Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult