6 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in September 2020

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

Late September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Three unaccompanied minors were expelled to Nogales under Title 42 in late September. These children entered the United States in an attempt to seek asylum and reunite with their mother, after suffering abuse in the home of a family member in Mexico. In response, a Florence Project attorney accompanied the children to seek asylum at a Port of Entry in Nogales, advocating that the children receive a Credible Fear Interview. CBP turned the children away. Last week, the attorney tried again to accompany the children to the Port of Entry, this time to request humanitarian parole. Despite significant congressional advocacy and insistence by the attorney that the U.S. government uphold its obligation to these children under the Convention Against Torture, CBP informed the attorney that “no one without papers is allowed to enter at the southern border.”

— “October 15 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 15, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Expulsion of Unaccompanied Minor

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

Victim Classification: Domestic Violence Victim, Mexico, Unaccompanied Child

Late September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Earlier this week, a young couple with their baby who fled threats from organized crime in Honduras attempted to cross through the desert in Arizona to request asylum. They turned themselves in to Border Patrol near Tucson, and expressed their fear of returning to Honduras as well as the discrimination they have encountered in Mexico after being detained multiple times, denied health care amidst a serious illness in detention, and having wages stolen by an employer. The BP agents claimed they did not speak Spanish, and told them they could only request asylum at a port of entry with a CBP officer. When the family was returned to Mexico, they approached the downtown Nogales port of entry, only to be rejected. The CBP agent they spoke with refused to take any steps to assess their fear claims and turned them away.

— “October 1 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 1, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson, Tucson Field Office

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

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

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

Late September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

In the past two weeks, KBI documented 5 separate incidents of migrants CBP expelled to downtown Nogales, Sonora between 11PM and 1:30AM. In at least 3 of these incidents, those who were expelled were forced to sleep outside because no hospitality resources were available at that hour. In 4 of those cases, migrants did not receive any documentation to enter Mexico since Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) was not open. In one case, a man who INM received requested officials allow him to stay at the office for the night and INM officials refused. He then slept on a bench in downtown Nogales, where he was robbed.

— “October 1 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 1, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult

September 8, 2020

An October 2020 ACLU document recounted the experience of “Ms. Eva Doe,” who fled Cuba with her husband in June 2019. When they arrived at the Rio Grande Valley’s Hidalgo port of entry to request asylum in September 2019, they were taken into CBP custody. After two days, they were given an immigration court date and sent back across the border into Mexico, under the “Remain in Mexico” program, to await their proceedings. In March 2020, after being brought into the United States for several hearings, an immigration judge denied Ms. Doe’s and her husband’s asylum petition.

The ACLU complaint continues:

They both reserved appeal and were returned to Reynosa for an indefinite period of time. There, the couple faced the tremendous challenges of navigating a global pandemic in a foreign country, without critical resources. Ms.Doe and her husband both fell ill, yet due to their lack of access to medical care, they could not get treatment. Ms. Doe’s husband additionally suffered threats and extortion in Mexico.

Fearful of ever-present threats to their safety, overwhelmed by unrelenting pandemic circumstances, and without legal counsel, the couple was unable to timely submit their immigration appeal. Consequently, the pair made the difficult decision to request asylum once more at a port of entry—this time, in Tijuana. When they arrived at the port of entry, however, U.S. immigration officers told the couple that the border was “closed” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and turned them away.

On September 8, 2020, Ms. Doe and her husband crossed the border between ports of entry, turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents and requesting asylum again. The ACLU continues:

Agents transported Ms. Doe and her husband to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station. Once there, Ms. Doe notified the agents that she was pregnant, even showing them photos from a recent ultrasound she had undergone while in Tijuana. Notwithstanding, Border Patrol agents separated Ms. Doe from her husband immediately after processing.[6]

The Border Patrol forced Ms. Doe to remove all outer layers of clothing, leaving her upper body clothed in only a sleeveless, thin-strapped blouse. Border Patrol agents gave Ms. Doe a floor mat and silver colored plastic (Mylar) sheet to use as a blanket before placing her in a large holding cell.[7] The toilet and sink to which Ms. Doe had access in her holding cell lacked safeguards for privacy. Ms. Doe was never allowed to bathe while in Border Patrol custody and was instead provided a single moist towelette to clean her entire body every three to four days. She was also only provided a small plastic stick with a sponge tip every three to four days to brush her teeth. The Border Patrol kept the cell lights on 24 hours per day, which made it difficult for Ms. Doe to fall asleep. Ms. Doe felt very cold in the holding cell, unable to warm up with the Mylar sheet, and unable to sleep or rest. Despite her multiple requests, Ms. Doe was denied access to her prenatal vitamins and was never given an equivalent supplement while in CBP custody.

Border Patrol then separated Ms. Doe and her husband:

On her seventh day in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe observed agents taking her husband and his belongings out of the holding cell in which he had been detained. She was never given an opportunity to talk to him before he was taken away. She panicked as she saw the agents removing him from the facility, and began banging on the cell door pleading for the agents’ attention. An agent informed Ms. Doe that her husband was being transferred to an ICE detention center and that she would soon be transferred as well. She recalls an agent explaining, to her horror, that many pregnant women are detained in ICE custody and that she could give birth while detained.

As of ACLU’s October 2020 filing, Ms. Doe had been given a November 2020 court date and released from CBP custody. Her husband remained held at ICE’s Otay Mesa Detention Center.

Ms. Doe is currently five months pregnant. Her separation from the father of her child has caused her stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil. She fears that her husband might not be present for their first child’s birth, and that she will have to go through the experience alone without his support. Worse yet, Ms. Doe’s source of greatest distress is the possibility that her husband will be deported to danger in their country of origin, without ever being be able to see or hold their child.

— “Appendix of Unresolved Complaints” (El Paso: ACLU, March 3, 2021): 123 https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/appendix-13-unresolved-oig-complaints.

Footnotes from above:

[6]: On April 15, 2020, the ACLU submitted another administrative complaint regarding the separation of families during CBP detention and processing. A copy of this complaint is appended hereto as Exhibit C. It is also available online. See AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF SAN DIEGO & IMPERIAL COUNTIES, ET AL., ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT RE: SEPARATION OF FAMILIES VIA CBP DETENTION AND PROCESSING, AND THE AGENCY’S REFUSAL TO IMPLEMENT A DETAINEE LOCATOR SYSTEM (Apr. 2020) [hereinafter “April 2020 Complaint”], https://www.aclusandiego.org/wp- content/uploads/2020/04/2020-04-15-OIG-Complaint-3-FINAL.pdf. Today’s second addendum echoes the troubling themes regarding family separation and incommunicado detention set forth in the April 2020 complaint.

[7]: During her first night in custody, Ms. Doe was detained with one other person. For the remainder of her time in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe was detained completely alone and separated from her husband.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

Early September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A father of two who fled death threats in Nicaragua arrived in Nogales last week after attempting to cross between ports of entry to request asylum in the U.S. After being abandoned by a guide and waiting with his nephew in the desert for days without food or water, he was detained by Border Patrol. He fainted when they arrived at the detention center, and then was hospitalized for 9 days, during which time he received dialysis for the severe damage done to his kidneys by dehydration.

Border Patrol agents removed him from the hospital in a wheelchair before he received official release from the hospital, and deported him to Mexico with no shoes, socks or underwear, only the hospital gown he was wearing. Hardly able to walk, he was deported alone and forced to walk barefoot over rocky ground to the Mexican immigration office. This, after expressing to numerous Border Patrol agents and hospital staff his fear of returning to Mexico and desire to seek asylum in the U.S.

— “September 17 Update” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Medical Condition, Nicaragua, Single Adult

Early September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A Cuban woman, seven months pregnant, and who had been waiting for ten months with her husband to be processed for asylum in Nogales, recently attempted two border crossings in one day in a small Arizona border town. Despite the couple’s repeated expression of their fear of returning to Mexico to Border Patrol agents, the wife’s vulnerability as a pregnant woman, and the fact that Mexico has not agreed to receive Cubans under Title 42 expulsions, the two were quickly returned to Mexico both times. Rather than further assessing their fear claims, a Border Patrol agent instead suggested the woman might break her own water to prematurely induce labor as her only way to stay in the U.S.

— “September 3 Update” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit, Pregnancy