37 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct involving “Office of Field Operations”

August 9, 2022

A DHS Inspector-General report, based on seven October 2021 unannounced inspections of El Paso-area CBP facilities, found Border Patrol holding hundreds of migrants in custody for longer than the normal 72-hour limit, despite a lack of overcrowding (original link). In addition, “Border Patrol held some migrants placed for expulsion under Title 42 authorities for longer than 14 days, which is inconsistent with Border Patrol policy,” and CBP was “inconsistent” in its separation of juveniles from unrelated adults in custody.

El Paso Sector Border Patrol Struggled with Prolonged Detention and Consistent Compliance with TEDS Standards (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General, August 9, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-08/OIG-22-57-Aug22.pdf.

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

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

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

July 26, 2022

A U.S. District judge sentenced former CBP officer Simon Medina to 24 months in federal prison (original link). Medina admitted that, while serving at the Laredo, Texas port of entry,

between May 25 and Aug. 6, 2020, he allowed several individuals to enter the United States with contraband in their vehicles on approximately 20 occasions. Although not assigned to the entry lanes at the Laredo Port of Entry, Medina would open a lane and allow his co-conspirators to pass through without inspecting their cargo. Medina also accepted gratuities from his partners.

Medina had pleaded guilty on March 8, 2022. CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility carried out the initial investigation of his case.

— “Former law enforcement officer heads to prison for allowing contraband into country” (Texas: U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas, July 26, 2022) https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/former-law-enforcement-officer-heads-prison-allowing-contraband-country.

Sector(s): Laredo Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Corruption

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Conviction, OPR Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

May 14, 2022

Two CBP officers fired gunshots at a vehicle during a southbound traffic inspection at the Bridge of the Americas port of entry in El Paso, Texas.

“While attempting to inspect a vehicle, a driver made an abrupt movement, at which point the officers perceived a threat to themselves and fired at the driver who fled from the inspection area at a high rate of speed and crossed into Mexico,” a CBP spokesperson e-mailed the El Paso Times.

Mexican authorities later found the vehicle in Ciudad Juárez. The incident is under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

— Daniel Borunda, “CBP officers in El Paso fire at vehicle in border shooting on the Bridge of the Americas” (El Paso: El Paso Times, May 15, 2022) https://www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/crime/2022/05/15/el-paso-shooting-bridge-americas-cbp-border-mexico/9785893002/.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

March and April, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado lists several examples of San Diego CBP port-of-entry officers’ refusals to grant humanitarian exceptions to Title 42 for especially vulnerable asylum seekers.

In April 2022, CBP denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Nigerian man with glaucoma and hand tremors who was beaten by police in Mexico; a gay Venezuelan man living with HIV who is partially deaf; a Mexican torture survivor with diabetes; a Haitian woman with a high-risk pregnancy who is experiencing food insecurity; and a disabled Honduran man whose injuries from a car accident have become infected and who needs specialized medical treatment. These requests had been submitted by Ginger Cline, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.

CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry have also recently denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Mexican woman fleeing threats by a cartel who murdered the woman’s husband and whose 12-year- old son has a pacemaker and urgently needs specialized medical treatment; a 14-year-old with a traumatic brain injury he incurred from falling from a two-story building to escape kidnappers; and a two- year-old Honduran asylum-seeking child with severe and worsening epilepsy who suffers from eight- minute-long seizures. Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with Immigrant Defenders Law Center in San Diego, had submitted these requests ultimately denied by CBP.

CBP at the San Ysidro port of entry has failed to respond to humanitarian exemption requests submitted months ago, including for a LGBTQ woman with maternal uterine fibroids who experiences constant bleeding after she was raped twice in Mexico in bias-motivated attacks based on her sexual orientation and for a Mexican domestic violence victim whose husband found her in Tijuana and kidnapped her daughter, according to Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Disability, Domestic Violence Victim, Family Unit, Female, Haiti, Honduras, Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Mexico, Nigeria, Pregnancy, Single Adult, Venezuela

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the experience of a Honduran asylum-seeking family that spent three days in CBP custody before being expelled into Mexico under Title 42.

CBP held an asylum-seeking Honduran family in freezing cells for days before expelling them under Title 42 without their belongings to Mexico where they were kidnapped just prior to attempting to seek asylum near Calexico. During their three days in CBP custody, the family of three children and their mother were forced to sleep on the floor of a freezing cold holding cell with nothing but foil blankets to keep warm. When CBP expelled the family under Title 42 to San Luis Río Colorado, the officers did not return the family’s possessions, including money, luggage, and medications. They received only their shoes, which were soaking wet and covered in dirt causing painful blisters to develop as the family walked in search of a bus to take them to a shelter.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

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

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

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the days-long separation of a Haitian family in CBP custody, along with allegations of racist language.

An asylum-seeking Haitian family expelled under Title 42 to Haiti and forced to flee again reported in March 2022 that during the expulsion CBP officers separated the parents from their 16-year-old daughter and subjected the girl to racist abuse. The family was detained for days in freezing cold CBP holding cells, with the teenager held separately with other children. She told Human Rights First that during the painful days she was detained away from her parents U.S. officers called her racist names including the N-word.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Family Separation, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Female, Haiti

March, 2022

“In March 2022, CBP turned away a Nigerian asylum seeker with urgent medical needs,” reads a report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado. “The man had been shot multiple times in Mexico, required a colostomy bag to eat, and urgently needed medical treatment unavailable in Tijuana, according to Nicole Ramos, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.”

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Nigeria, Single Adult

March, 2022

A report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado discusses CBP’s insistence on expelling members of an imminently threatened Mexican family with an injured teenager in San Diego.

In March 2022 CBP turned away a Mexican asylum-seeking family fleeing Michoacán after the cartel that had threatened to kill them tortured a family member into disclosing their location in Tijuana. Desperate to escape the cartel, the family attempted to climb over the 30-foot border wall, but a 14-year-old girl fell and was seriously injured. CBP expelled the family back to danger in Tijuana under Title 42 allowing only the girl’s mother to remain with her at a San Diego hospital. The family told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “she’s fighting for her life, and we only did it because [the cartel] already knew we were in Tijuana. We didn’t have another option.”

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

— Kate Morrissey, “Ukrainians Only: Racial Disparities in U.S. Border Policies Grow More Obvious” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, March 22, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-03-19/ukrainians-border-title-42.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

March, 2022

A report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts CBP’s expulsion of a Mexican family who presented graphic evidence of their protection needs.

In March 2022, CBP officers turned away a Mexican asylum seeker and her children who fled Guerrero after the woman’s husband and teenage son were murdered. The woman brought photos of the chopped-up bodies of her loved ones as evidence of the danger the family had fled. “I’m not here because I want to be here. I’m here to save the lives of my children,” she told the San Diego Union- Tribune. The family spent the night outside the port of entry until Mexican officials pressured them to leave the area.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

— Kate Morrissey, “Ukrainians Only: Racial Disparities in U.S. Border Policies Grow More Obvious” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, March 22, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-03-19/ukrainians-border-title-42.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

February, 2022

Human Rights Watch reported on CBP’s Title 42 expulsion of Adolfo H. and Gerardo C. (pseudonyms), a gay couple fleeing Cuba and El Salvador who had already “experienced extortion several times by Mexican immigration agents.”

US officials told the couple that Adolfo could stay and seek asylum in the United States because he is from Cuba but that his partner would be expelled, even though border officials had the authority to allow both men in. Instead, they gave them the option of being separated or of being expelled together. They said that while they were in custody, US officials told them to stop holding hands or touching one another.

CBP officers expelled both men back to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

US: LGBT Asylum Seekers in Danger at the Border (New York: Human Rights Watch, May 31, 2022) https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/31/us-lgbt-asylum-seekers-danger-border.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Cuba, El Salvador, LGBTQ

January 6, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative reported on recent cases of expulsions into Mexico of particularly vulnerable migrants who do not speak Spanish:

Sixteen percent of those arriving at KBI in the last two weeks of December originally migrated from Haiti. Several of the Haitian families could not respond to simple questions in Spanish without the assistance of an interpreter. In some cases, one individual from the group spoke enough Spanish to interpret for others who did not speak Spanish. One young Haitian woman described experiencing discrimination during their journey north. She reported that her family was extorted in every country they traveled through, including members of the Mexican National Guard who stopped them in southern Mexico, opened up their backpacks, and took whatever they wanted.

Numerous indigenous families from Guatemala have been expelled to Nogales under Title 42, putting them at particular risk of discrimination in Mexico due to language barriers and cultural differences. A Guatemalan family whose primary language is Mam was expelled last week after attempting to cross into the US to seek asylum, as was a Guatemalan man whose primary language is Cakchiquel.

— “January 6 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 6, 2021)

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP, Office of Field Operations

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

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

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Guatemala, Haiti, Indigenous

January 6, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A man from Honduras was expelled to Nogales, Sonora late December in a state of extreme dehydration. He was visibly trembling and reported to KBI that for four days he had only drank water, and that he could not keep down any solid food. An ambulance took him from KBI to the hospital, where he received 15 bags of IV fluids.

— “January 6 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 6, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Honduras, Medical Condition, Single Adult

January 6, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A young Guatemalan man who was recently expelled to Nogales, Sonora had tried to cross into the US to seek asylum after fleeing threats from extortionists in his hometown. He fell and injured his knee while traveling in the desert. Although he reported his injury to immigration officials, he was not offered medical attention. He was expelled to Nogales at 3AM, where he spent the night exposed in the plaza downtown until the sun came up.

— “January 6 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 6, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition, Single Adult

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

December, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance recounted the separation of a Haitian family at a port of entry in December 2021.

After being turned back to Mexico by CBP officers on horseback in Del Rio, one Haitian man and his partner attempted to seek asylum at the port of entry at Port Andrade, California in December 2021.[279] His partner was seven months pregnant and experiencing severe health complications. During their processing, the couple asked U.S. officials if they could be kept together. The officials refused and the couple was separated. The man was deeply concerned for his partner’s health and begged the officers for an update on her condition multiple times a day. The officers at the facility repeatedly refused to provide any information. “I felt terrible because after everything we’ve been through together, they refused to give me any information or update on how her health was.”[280]

The couple spent four days in a detention facility in Arizona in separate cells before the pregnant woman was released to their sponsor in New York. U.S. officials told the man that instead of being released alongside his pregnant partner, he would be transferred to a different detention facility. Nine days later, he was transferred from Arizona to Laredo, Texas. On December 12th, he was deported back to Haiti. The separation from his pregnant partner was “emotionally devastating” and they both “cried every single day.” He missed the birth of his child, who has since suffered from health consequences.

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment (United States: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 29, 2022) https://rfkhr.imgix.net/asset/Del-Rio-Report.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[279]: Phone interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual (Mar. 14, 2022).

[280]: Phone interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual (Mar. 14, 2022).

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Pregnancy

December 12, 2021

A CBP officer fired four times at a Mercedes sedan approaching the San Ysidro Port of Entry “at a high rate of speed” along with a Ford SUV, CBP reported (original link). The sedan collided with the SUV.

Aboard the vehicles were 18 undocumented migrants from Russia. Two occupants of the Mercedes “suffered minor head contusions.” No injuries resulted from the gunfire. “There were 12 people in the first car, including five children ages 5 and under. The second car had six people, including two children ages 10 and 14,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

CBP arrested both vehicles’ drivers, who were also Russian asylum seekers.

As of December 14, CBP reported, the use-of-force incident was being investigated by the San Diego Police Department and CBP’s Office of Public Responsibility. The incident, it read, would also be reviewed by CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

The Union-Tribune’s February 5, 2022 coverage sought to follow up on the investigation:

The CBP Use of Force Policy Handbook says that guns should not be used to stop moving cars [(original link)]. The Union-Tribune asked San Diego police for an update on the investigation into the incident but did not receive a response in time for publication.

— “CBP Statement on Shots Fired at San Ysidro Port of Entry” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, December 14, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-shots-fired-san-ysidro-port-entry.

— Kate Morrissey, “CBP staffs up border line as asylum seekers try to reach U.S. soil by driving across” (San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, February 5, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-02-05/cbp-border-asylum-seekers-cars.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Russia, Single Adult

November 13, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “A.V.R.N.,” who had prescription medication taken away by CBP Field Operations personnel at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico, west of El Paso.

In the past months, I had surgery on my leg. On Nov. 13, I went for a follow-up to Juarez so they could remove the nails from my leg. While at the doctor’s, I was prescribed Tramadol with Ketorolac for the pain because I had severe pain. I bought a box with ten pills.

At the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, the officer, who seemed to be of Latin origin, asked me if I was bringing back money or medicine supposedly because he saw me on crutches. I told him I did have medicine with me and showed him the prescription.

The officer then sent me to secondary inspection and told me to step out of the car. After struggling, I was able to get out of the car, and three more officers showed up. An Anglo, a Hispanic female officer, and one Hispanic male officer around 50-60 years old. This last officer was the one who did not allow me to bring in my medicine. The other two officers kept asking him to allow me to bring my medication since I had a prescription and it was only ten pills, which I really needed. But he refused, stating that the prescription was not valid in the U.S. and that the pills were like bringing in weed.

That night I was in so much pain because I could only take Tylenol for my pain.

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 Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

November 3, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “L.L.,” who said she was invasively strip-searched by CBP Field Operations personnel at El Paso’s Santa Fe (Paso del Norte Bridge) Port of Entry.

I, L. L., want to tell you what happened to me on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. I went to Ciudad Juárez to buy medicine for my son. When I got to the Paso del Norte Port of Entry, the CBP officer asked me, “why did you go to Juarez?” I showed him the medicine that I bought with the prescription. The CBP officer told me I needed to go through a secondary inspection.

The CBP officer took me to a room with two female officers. One of them touched my private parts in a very strange way; the officer was a brunette, Hispanic, and robust woman who spoke to me in Spanish. The officer said, “tell me what you have.” I told her I only brought medicine for my son. The CBP officer then asked me to squat. When I questioned why I had to do that, the CBP officer stated it was a routine check, that for every ten people who cross, they stop one and check them this way.

I felt awful during and after the search, especially with the way they searched me. I am an American citizen, and I have never had any problems with anyone. I am afraid to go through a port of entry again because of that experience.

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 Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Wrongful Strip Search

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

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

October 17, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “J.D.” (identified in news coverage as “Jesus Francisco Davila, 71, a citizen of both Mexico and the United States”) about an abusive interaction with CBP Field Operations personnel at El Paso’s Zaragoza (Ysleta) Port of Entry.

On Oct, 17, at around 3 p.m., I was going through the Zaragoza port of entry. I was hurrying because my wife was waiting for me on the other side of the bridge in El Paso, Texas. When I arrived at the first checkpoint, where the officer was revising the documents, I accidentally showed him my Mexican voter registration card (INE) instead of my border crossing visa. When the officer saw it, he became angry, questioned what my INE card was, and pushed me.

I fell on my back; I tried to cover my head so I wouldn’t hit it. I scratched my elbow and hurt my back. An officer who was close by intervened to stop his colleague from hurting me. Meanwhile, the officer that pushed me was obviously furious and looked like he wanted to hurt me.

I went to speak to a supervisor. They asked if they could take my blood pressure and call an ambulance since it was really high. I was told that an individual was going to take note of what happened to me. But this person never took any notes and showed no interest in what had happened.

They never did anything. Instead, they gave me a flyer with a number I could call later. But I was not interested in doing anything. I just don’t ever want this to happen again.

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 Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult, U.S. Citizen or Resident

September 27, 2021

A Kino Border Initiative release reports:

Karla [not real name], another migrant organizer, described her experience being denied asylum three times. She said, “I went to the Tijuana border looking for help and protection asking immigration for asylum. They rejected me, humiliated me, and denied me asylum. I cried together with my children, pleaded with them and asked for their help to be able to request asylum. When they saw me cry, they told me not to because not even with my tears was I going to convince them and that I better step aside because I was in the way. As I cried for help, they laughed at me and my children. I tried to seek asylum in three different ports of entry along the border and I have always been rejected, humiliated. They threatened to call the Mexican authorities on me who also humiliated us.”

— “CBP closed port of entry after denying access to migrant family seeking asylum, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 27, 2021) https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/press-release-cbp-closed-port-of-entry-after-denying-access-to-migrant-family-seeking-asylum-accompanied-by-tucson-bishop-edward-weisenburger/.

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

September 27, 2021

CBP officers shut the gates of Nogales, Arizona’s DeConcini port of entry as a family, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger, approached to seek asylum. A Kino Border Initiative release described the scene.

Laura fled southern Mexico with her two kids, her brother and his family- after her husband was shot by the local mafia. Laura and her family, accompanied by the Bishop, went through the turnstile at the DeConcini port of entry only to be turned away in tears.

Chelsea Sachau, attorney with the Florence Project, who accompanied the family recounts the event, “The family reasserted their request to be processed and to seek asylum. They asked to speak to someone else [other than the CBP officials], a supervisor, and then the CBP officers entered the building and locked both doors. They tested to make sure that both doors were locked, and then they slowly started lowering the gate to shut down the entire port of entry because this family, accompanied by faith leaders, and a legal observer, asked him for their right to seek asylum.” Laura and her family were forced to step back as the gate lowered onto where they were standing. Sachau continues, “There was no warning given to anyone, neither ourselves or anyone in line who had papers to enter into the US.” The DeConcini port of entry was shut down for about an hour to anyone trying to cross into the U.S.

— “CBP closed port of entry after denying access to migrant family seeking asylum, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 27, 2021) https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/press-release-cbp-closed-port-of-entry-after-denying-access-to-migrant-family-seeking-asylum-accompanied-by-tucson-bishop-edward-weisenburger/.

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

September 1, 2021

According to BuzzFeed, CBP officers insisted on expelling back into Mexico, under the Title 42 authority, a Honduran LGBT woman whose spine was fractured in an anti-gay attack in Mexico, and who had also been raped by Mexican police. “The two Honduran women have since been living on the streets of Mexico with no end in sight,” Buzzfeed reported.

— Adolfo Flores, “Biden’s Border Policy Is Trapping LGBTQ Asylum-Seekers In Dangerous Conditions In Mexico” (BuzzFeed, September 16, 2021) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/lgbt-asylum-seekers-stuck-in-mexico.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Honduras, LGBTQ, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult

August 5, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “S.O.D.,” who said she was threatened and invasively strip-searched by CBP Field Operations personnel at El Paso’s Santa Fe (Paso del Norte Bridge) Port of Entry.

Today (8/5/2021), I went to Ciudad Juárez with my 5-month-old son, Nathan, because he had an appointment with the pediatrician at the Family Clinic at 1:30 p.m. for a stomach infection and flu. When I returned to El Paso, I arrived at the Santa Fe bridge around 2:20 p.m. When it was my turn to see the officer, he told me he would take my photo, which I agreed to. He asked for my documents; I gave him my Texas identification. When he asked for my son’s papers, I showed him the papers from our visit to the clinic, which had my full name and my son’s social security number. He told me that I would have to go in for a routine check-up. I told him that was fine; I had no illegal things with me.

They put me in the inspection room with three officers, two females and a male officer sitting on the computer. The male officer stated that my son did not look like me and that my son’s papers were invalid. He asked me, “how do we verify that he is your son? We would have to do a DNA test, and that would take a week.” Therefore, he said they were going to take my son to a detention place. I asked him where they were going to take him. The officer, an older man, mockingly told me that he would put him in a cage. The way he expressed himself was not funny to me at all.

They told me to take my money and all my belongings and put them inside my son’s diaper bag. One of the female officers checked the diaper bag, put it in a blue box, and then took my son. The other female officer inspected me thoroughly. She put me against the wall and told me to lower my pants to my knees. She physically checked my whole body. She put her hands under my bra and touched my parts in front and behind.

The male officer told me that, since I couldn’t prove that he was my son, they would accuse me of child trafficking and arrest me. I told him that I knew a person from CPS who could verify that the child is indeed my son and that he is an American citizen. At that moment, he turned around, looked at me, and repeated, “CPS?”

The officer then gave me back my documents and told me to leave. He said that he did not want to see me crossing the border with my son, that the next time, they would take him away from me. One of the female officers accompanied me to the door to leave. I was detained for approximately 40 minutes.

The truth is that I felt denigrated because of the way they abused my rights and those of my son. I was only taking him to the doctor; I was not doing anything illegal. I showed him the doctor’s prescription, but he did not mind exposing my son to a closed place where there were more people and possible contagious viruses. My son is a baby; he was sick.

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 Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Disregard of Public Health, Wrongful Strip Search

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Female

June 16, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK included a Jamaican migrant’s account of violent treatment by Border Patrol agents at Nogales, Arizona’s DeConcini port of entry.

A Jamaican man entered the United States at a port of entry to ask for asylum and was immediately confronted by two Border Patrol agents who physically attacked him. They knocked him to the ground with a plastic barrier and began beating and punching him. One agent put his foot on his neck as he lay on the ground. The agents dragged him across concrete into an office at the port of entry. A third agent told the two that what they were doing was wrong. The other agents dismissed her objection. The Jamaican man was then handcuffed to a bench. Later, he was taken to another room where he was photographed and fingerprinted. When the agents asked why he was there, the Jamaican man said he was seeking asylum. The agents asked where he was from and when he said Jamaica. The agents said, “this is what a bunch of you have been doing (running into the port of entry), you are getting out of here.” They took him to the Mexican immigration office. His friends were in Mexico waiting to see if he got across successfully. The Mexican immigration officers took photos of all their passports and asked them to go to Kino Border Initiative.

KBI filed a June 24, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 6, CRCL emailed “saying 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, Tucson Field Office

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

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: Black, Jamaica, Single Adult

Mid-June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported about the separation of a Honduran Garífuna family whose asylum claim had gained an exception to the Title 42 expulsion policy:

Last week, a Honduran father of 5 whose wife is 3 months pregnant was detained by ICE as he and his family were processed through the consortium process at the downtown Nogales port of entry. The father does not have any criminal history in the US, and Spanish is the family’s second language, as they are part of the Garífuna indigenous community in Honduras.

As the mother shared in her testimony at the interfaith #SaveAsylum event this week, when the father was separated from his family, the CBP officer assured his wife that he would only be detained a day or two, but he has now been separated from his family for over a week.

His wife, who is stranded waiting for her husband’s release at a shelter in Tucson with their 5 children, attempted to set an appointment to visit her husband at La Palma, but was unable to do so because the visitation phone system is all in English. She has not received any clarity about when her husband will be released, and a week after his detention had not been able to make any contact since she does not have money to put in his commissary.

— “June 24 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 24, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): ICE, Office of Field Operations

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

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

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Honduras, Indigenous