2 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in August 2020

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

August 30, 2020

Politico Magazine published an account by Tianna Spears, a Black U.S. diplomat who had been assigned to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez. She described CBP officers subjecting her to regular, blatant racial profiling whenever she crossed back into El Paso. “[O]fficers in primary inspection still made sarcastic comments, cruel jokes and belittling jabs implying I was not a U.S. diplomat, not a U.S. citizen and had stolen my own car.”

One time, an officer told me, which I wrote down: Just because you say you work at the consulate does not mean that you are not smuggling drugs into the country. I asked him to explain.He responded, I don’t know, but I do know what drug dealers and smugglers look like. He stepped forward, crossed his arms, looked at me up and down, and said: You know what I mean.

Spears said that as of August 2020, 18 months after complaining to CBP’s upper management, she got no response to her complaint from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

— Tianna Spears, “I Was a U.S. Diplomat. Customs and Border Protection Only Cared That I Was Black.” (Washington: Politico Magazine, August 30, 2020) https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/08/30/black-us-diplomat-customs-border-protection-cbp-detained-harassed-325676.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation, Unknown

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

August 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

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

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: DHS Employee