452 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct

Examples of abuses or other behaviors indicating need for reform at U.S. border and migration institutions (RSS feed)

January 17, 2024

A January 17 Arizona Daily Star report described freezing temperatures and lack of access to basic necessities threatening asylum seekers gathered outdoors along the border, especially in southern Arizona. As many as 1,000 people were reported awaiting processing in the Tohono O’odham Nation lands along the border in the remote desert southwest of Tucson. A majority of the arrivals reported in this region, as cited by the Arizona Daily Star and described by Tohono O’odham Chairman Verlon Jose, are asylum seekers in family units, including young children. 

Since December, aid workers have coordinated daily presence in the Arizona border region, particularly in the context of freezing temperatures and heavy rains, often being the sole providers of food, water, shelter, medical care, and addressing the growing sanitation needs. A volunteer described his experience, “shoveling human excrement into [the] trenches that were dug”. Volunteers were also reportedly transporting asylum seekers experiencing medical emergencies, despite Border Patrol’s threats to arrest them, as volunteers described the lack of response by authorities even in dire situations. 

Volunteers from Southern Arizona humanitarian aid group, No More Deaths, built a make-shift encampment in the desert region east of Sásabe, with tents and a cooking area, and attached tarps to the border wall to create additional shelters from the cold. CBP subsequently placed “cease-and-desist” signs on the tarps, stating it was a safety hazard and interfered with law enforcement and construction crews’ access to the road, as well as obstructed visibility. 

After pressure from aid workers and the Tohono O’odham nation, Customs and Border Protection installed one large, heated tent, portable toilets, and a hand washing station near the San Miguel gate. 

“It’s solely their responsibility to be doing almost everything that we’re currently doing”, stated a humanitarian aid volunteer. 

Bregel, Emily. “Life-Threatening Cold, ‘sanitation Crisis’ for Migrants at Arizona-Mexico Border.” Arizona Daily Star, January 17, 2024. https://tucson.com/news/local/subscriber/arizona-mexico-border-tohono-oodham-asylumseekers-migrants-surge/article_52e4a176-b565-11ee-87a6-67208722eaeb.html.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Disregard of Public Health, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

Early January, 2024

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

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

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Venezuela

December 19, 2023

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

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

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

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Mexico

December 15, 2023

A Los Angeles Times December 15 publication reported on the family separations taking place at the San Diego border, citing a letter written by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Al Otro Lado, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, and the UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy. 

The letter identified 1,081 family separations, 400 separations of spouses, and 200 separations of adult children and parents. 

Separations are the result of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s practice of releasing migrants to various locations without coordinated reception plans, as they handle increased arrivals of asylum seekers. Al Otro Lado reported these separations among the migrants they serve daily at a San Diego border welcome center. Some families remained separated even after being transferred to long-term detention, and in two cases, one family member was deported while others stayed in the U.S. Some families remain separated even after being transferred to long term detention. 

Many separated families claimed they informed CBP of their family status, but were rarely informed of potential separation or how to locate relatives. A migrant mother reported she was separated from her 19 year old son for five days after being transported to another immigration center unaware of her child’s whereabouts. “It’s hell,” she said. “Not knowing if your son is safe, if he is alive, if something happened to him. All you can do is pray to God.”

In the letter, advocacy groups urged The Department of Homeland Security to broaden the family group definition, document relationships, and ensure families are released together. 

Castillo, Andrea. “Over 1,000 Migrant Families Separated at Border near San Diego since September, Advocates Say.” Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2023. https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-12-15/migrant-families-at-san-diego-border-immigrant-advocates-letter-dhs.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

December 14,2023

On December 14,  the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted the inhumane conditions described by a group of Guatemalan nationals while in ICE custody.A woman in the group shared that while detained in ICE custody for 15 days, they were only allowed to shower once after eight days passed. 

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): ICE

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Disregard of Public Health

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Guatemala

September 28, 2023

On September 28, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted the case of a deaf man who had been recently kidnapped and was denied access to asylum upon reaching the port of entry.

“After turning himself into BP, the agents made no attempt to communicate with him in a way he could understand and they returned him to Mexico.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Disability

Mid-September, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

Mid-September 2023

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), along with other U.S. law enforcement agencies, bought access to—and has used for years—commercially sourced location data harvested from U.S. citizens’ and others’ smartphones, revealed 404 Media.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on September 12 finding that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) “is not fully implementing activities intended to monitor whether personnel are following its policies to protect the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of U.S. persons, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.” (Original link)

A former location data company worker indicated that Commercial Telemetry Data (CTD) is typically used to track “herds of people”, but that it can be and has been used to monitor specific targets. Reports indicated that data has been used to identify border crossings and consequently arrest people. Since the agencies paid a commercial vendor for the data, they have not been required to acquire a warrant or another court order to obtain the information.

CBP, in response to investigations, stated that “CBP officers, agents, and analysts are provided with access to the vendor’s interface on a case-by-case basis, and are only able to view a limited sample of anonymized data consistent with existing border security or law enforcement operations.”

CBP discontinued the use of CTD at the end Fiscal Year 2023, on September 30, 2023. The reasons for discontinuation are unknown. Nonetheless, CBP publicly stated that if the agency “identifies a critical mission need to re-acquire a vendor who provides CTD, we would ensure CBP would engage Oversight, Legal, and Privacy entities at the agency and department level.”

—“Homeland Security: Office of Intelligence and Analysis Should Improve Privacy Oversight and Assessment of Its Effectiveness.” Washington: U. S. Government Accountability Office, August 28, 2023. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-105475.

—Cox, Joseph. “Customs and Border Protection Says It Will Stop Buying Smartphone Location Data.” 404 Media, September 12, 2023. https://www.404media.co/customs-and-border-protection-stop-buying-location-data

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Civil Liberties or Privacy Infringement

Last Known Accountability Status: GAO Investigation Closed, Unknown

Victim Classification:

September 14, 2023

 Reporting on September 14, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted a case of an attempted kidnapping of a migrant woman. When she arrived at the port of entry to request asylum, she was turned away without access to an asylum process. 

Nuria [name changed to protect privacy] fled Quintana Roo after a narcotrafficking group tried to take her as their “woman.” She turned herself into Border Patrol, where agents asked why she wanted asylum. She explained her situation, but the agents only took her fingerprints, said, “There’s no asylum for you. Asylum is closed,” and sent her back to Mexico. 

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico

August 17, 2023

On August 17, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted the case of a young migrant who was denied access to asylum and misled with false information. 

“This week, a young man, Jesus* [name changed to protect privacy] fleeing organized crime in Southern Mexico arrived at KBI after paying thousands of dollars to a coyote in an attempt to seek asylum. “The coyotes say you turn yourself into Border Patrol and you get asylum, but it’s not true,” he said. BP agents told him, “there is no asylum for Mexicans,” and told him he could either be deported or sign his voluntary return.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

August 17, 2023

On August 17, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted that a migrant family was separated by Border Patrol and required to sign a voluntary return document.

“Patricia*[name changed to protect privacy], her 18-year-old son, her daughter-in-law, and grandchildren are fleeing threats in Mexico. When BP encountered them, they separated Patricia [name changed to protect privacy] from her son, as well as from her daughter in law and grandchildren. The agents didn’t ask any questions; they said they had to sign their voluntary return if they would receive jail time as punishment. Patricia asked if they would return her at the same time as her son because he is only 18. The agents said they would, but soon, she saw her son lining up with other men. BP returned her son at 8 pm to Nogales and returned her until the following day.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

August 17, 2023

 On August 17, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted that a DACA recipient was denied reentry into the U.S. by CBP, for unclear reasons, while also being separated from their sibling and having their diabetes medication confiscated.

“Fernando* [name changed to protect privacy] grew up in the US and was a DACA recipient. His mother in Mexico got very sick, and he applied and received advance parole to go to visit her. However, upon his return to the US, CBP denied his entry and he is unclear as to the reason. He began to work in Southern Mexico, where his sister lived, until organized crime took over the city. They demanded he pay a protection fee and told him he had 3 days to pay them 15,000 pesos ($875 USD). They fled to Central Mexico, but the same group located them there. They fled to the border, where BP agents apprehended them. The agents said if they signed their voluntary return, they would be able to stay together throughout the process. However, they returned Fernando alone and he hasn’t heard from his sister in 3 days. BP agents also threw away his diabetes medication.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf

Sector(s): CBP

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

August 17, 2023

On August 17, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted the following case.

“Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received multiple reports of Border Patrol pressuring or coercing Mexican nationals into signing their voluntary return after having asked for asylum, without a fear interview, and separating family members, including a mother from her 18-year-old son.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

August 8th, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

August 3, 2023

On August 3, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), reported the case of a migrant family from Southern Mexico that fled to the U.S. border to seek asylum. Border Patrol mistreated the family, denied them asylum, and expelled them back to Mexico.

“Leonora*[name changed to protect privacy]  and her 3 kids fled Southern Mexico to save her daughter from sexual violence. They turned themselves into Border Patrol and after Leonora [name changed to protect privacy]  tried to explain why they were fleeing, the BP agent responded, “you’re in charge of defending your own kids; you can’t just come to the US.” The agents made fun of her and laughed at her and made her sign a document- they said if she didn’t sign it, she would be a criminal and would be subject to consequences for 10 years. They were detained for 3 nights, after which BP expelled them at 10 pm despite local repatriation agreements that require that these repatriations occur before 6:30 pm.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment, Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Mexico

August 3,2023

Reporting on August 3, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted the case of a family seeking asylum, fleeing from Mexico. The mother of the family attempted to explain why she and her family needed to enter the U.S. but were not given the opportunity by Border Patrol. Border Patrol made her sign a voluntary removal form, stating that her refusal would result in five years of punishment and deportation to Mexico.

One agent said his supervisor “didn’t authorize asylum for them; that people from the state of Guanajuato aren’t eligible for asylum.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

August 3, 2023

Reporting on August 3, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted receiving consistent reports of Mexican asylum seekers being removed or returned without undergoing fear interviews. Among those affected are two Mexican families who were belittled, made fun of, and returned to Mexico without being asked their reasons for requesting asylum. 

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, Border-Wide, CBP

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

August 1, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Texas State Police

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

End of July 2023

Newsite Government Executive reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General Joseph Cuffari agreed to pay a former official $1.17 million in a settlement agreement after allegedly firing her in retaliation for her whistleblower claims.  

Jennifer Costello is a former deputy who worked for the Department of Homeland Security under Inspector General Joseph Cuffari. When Costello discovered that Cufarri had delayed a report into the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the southern border, Costello brought forth complaints to Congress and the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency in 2019. 

Then, Cuffari launched a third-party investigation into Costello and two of her colleagues, resulting in a $1.4 million cost. The investigation concluded that she had engaged in divisive and unprofessional behavior, which Costello argued was a “farce” launched in retaliation for her claims. She was fired in June 2020. 

According to the official settlement, the Inspector General’s Office did not admit to any guilt or wrongdoing. Instead, Costello’s firing was overturned, and she is now formally listed as an employee who resigned from the DHS. Cufarri continues to push back against allegations that he is an ‘unethical’ employee. He launched a lawsuit against the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency for investigating the IG’s office. This lawsuit was dismissed on November 2nd, 2023 after a judge deemed Cufarri failed to prove that the Council’s investigation was harassment. Despite the investigation, he continues to serve as the Inspector General for the DHS.

Katz, Eric. “DHS Inspector General Pays $1.2M Settlement to Former Deputy.” Government Executive, July 27, 2023. https://www.govexec.com/management/2023/07/dhs-inspector-general-pays-12m-settlement-former-deputy/388892/.

Sector(s):

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Civil Liberties or Privacy Infringement, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: Advocate or Humanitarian Worker

July 30, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation

Victim Classification:

July, 2023

Among cases cited in a July 2023 Human Rights First report was that of a Haitian asylum-seeking man to whom CBP officers denied access to emergency medical care, while harassing the humanitarian worker accompanying him.

Even during the Title 42 period, it was customary to be granted access to the Reynosa port of entry for medical emergencies requiring an ambulance. The humanitarian worker, however, was told by CBP officers at the limit line, “This isn’t our problem. If you want, you can bring him to wait in line.” At this time, other vulnerable individuals waiting to access the port of entry without an appointment were being forced to wait for over 72 hours in extreme heat. “If I bring him to wait in this line without medical care, he will die,” the humanitarian worker told CBP officers.

After advocacy by another local humanitarian worker, the ambulance transporting the critical case was approved to cross. Yet upon arrival at the port with the ambulance, the humanitarian worker and the Haitian man were harassed by CBP: “It’s you again?” the CBP officer greeted the humanitarian worker who tried to explain the situation but was silenced. A CBP nurse said, “You call this an emergency?” and removed the Haitian man’s oxygen tubes and ordered him to stand up, lowering him from the bed and off the ambulance. A CBP supervisor refused to provide the Haitian man with a wheelchair and instead forced him to walk and to carry his luggage, prohibiting the humanitarian worker from carrying it for him. The CBP supervisor accepted the man for processing and ordered the local humanitarian worker to leave, threatening her and saying she was prohibited from return:

“You’re already in trouble, so if you don’t want to have more problems, leave. You are no longer allowed in this area.”

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

Sector(s): Laredo Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Intimidation of Humanitarian Workers

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Advocate or Humanitarian Worker, Haiti, Medical Condition, Single Adult

July 2023

In 2022, President Joe Biden signed an executive order commanding federal law enforcement agencies to update their policies on use of force. In February, DHS updated its use-of-force policy to comply with the order. This updated policy limited the use of no-knock entries, required more frequent training for officers and staff, and banned the use of chokeholds unless deadly force was absolutely necessary. 

During April 2022 to July 2023, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audited four DHS agencies, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service, in order to survey their compliance with the policy.

In a report, GAO found that  DHS consistently under-reported use of force incidents. For example, in a situation where use of force is used multiple times, DHS only reports it as one count of force, rather than counting each individual incident. In one case involving the Federal Protective Service, the FPS “counted 27 separate use of forces across 15 reports as a single incident”.


After the report’s finding, GAO made two recommendations to  DHS. First, it called on the agency to create a guide on how its agencies should submit data for incidents where force is used multiple times. Secondly, it recommended that the secretary of DHS create and execute a plan in order to analyze the data submitted by the agency.  

In July, DHS agreed to follow the office’s recommendations, stating it would create a plan to analyze data by the end of 2023, issue guidance on its reporting by the beginning of 2024, and fully complete the data analysis on the use-of-force by 2025.

“Law Enforcement: DHS Should Strengthen Use of Force Data Collection and Analysis.” Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, July 24, 2023. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-105927.
Lacy, Akela. “Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Routinely Undercount Use-of-Force Incidents.” The Intercept, July 27, 2023. https://theintercept.com/2023/07/27/dhs-use-of-force/.

Sector(s): CBP

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

Last Known Accountability Status: Under GAO Investigation

Victim Classification:

July 26, 2023

Reporting on July 26, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted a case of a migrant requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso after fleeing gang violence in Ecuador. After turning himself in to Border Patrol Agents, he was immediately expelled to Ecuador under Title 42, and forced to restart his journey North, attempting to seek asylum again in Nogales. 

Admiel [name changed to protect privacy] fled gang violence in Ecuador. He began receiving threatening messages from gangs and shortly after, survived an attack by gang members. As he was leaving work with a colleague, gang members began following them and then attacked them, beating Admiel with a bat until he lost consciousness and fell into a coma for 4 days, which killed his coworker. Admiel quickly moved to another part of the country and filed a police report with the help of a lawyer. Just days later, the gang killed the lawyer. Admiel fled to the US-Mexico border to seek asylum. He turned himself into BP agents in El Paso, but was immediately expelled to Ecuador under Title 42. He was forced to start the journey north again and is now attempting again to seek asylum in Nogales, now with the asylum ban in place. 

Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP, El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Ecuador

July 20, 2023

Reporting on July 20, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted a case of a Mexican national seeking asylum near Sasabe, Arizona. The migrant was taken to a station and was detained for two nights, never given a fear interview. 

KBI described the incident, “They just took his fingerprints and information and then put him on a bus without saying where it was going. BP returned him to Mexico at 10:30 pm and he and others who were removed or returned had to walk through the city at night until they found a hotel and split the cost.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

July 20, 2023

Reporting on July 20, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), recounted five cases of Mexican asylum seekers being deported without fear interviews to assess their eligibility for an asylum process. Among cases cited, a young mother fleeing Southern Mexico with her son and other family members turned themselves into Border Patrol to request asylum. The mother and child were separated from the family members they were traveling with and were not asked their reason for requesting asylum. Border Patrol made the young mother sign for her voluntary return. She and her son were sent to Nogales, Sonora at 9 pm, in violation of bilateral agreements that required the repatriation of unaccompanied women between the hours of 8 am and 6:30 pm. The mother approached Border Patrol agents at the Nogales Port of Entry for help in seeking asylum and was told by an officer that “they couldn’t do anything”. 

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Denial of Access to Asylum, Inappropriate Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico