9 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in January 2021

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

Late January, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Last week a 23-year-old Salvadoran woman who was 36 weeks pregnant arrived at our migrant aid center after BP agents expelled her under Title 42. When she was detained, she began to have strong headaches and was concerned that the stress was causing her to go into premature labor, something that had happened to her in a previous pregnancy. Border Patrol agents denied her medical attention three times, but she felt very ill and insisted on seeing a doctor. A Border Patrol agent responded by accusing her of lying, and threatened that she would face federal criminal charges if she kept causing problems. She continued insisting, and was finally taken to the hospital, where they discovered she was 2 cm dilated. After her headaches ceased, they expelled her to Nogales, Sonora, MX.

— “February 4 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 4, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Pregnancy

January 31, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described a Honduran woman’s inability, while in Border Patrol custody, to seek asylum and avoid Title 42 expulsion into Mexico.

A Honduran woman fled domestic abuse from a partner in Honduras who is connected to organized crime. She filed a police report in Honduras and he threatened her even more.

While traveling through Mexico, she feared being forced into prostitution to survive. She was able to avoid this. On the way to the United States, she was kidnapped by the cartel and ransomed for one thousand dollars. When a friend was able to pay the ransom, the cartel dropped her and 38 others off in the desert.

Once she entered the United States through the desert she was detained by Border Patrol. At that time, she told the Border Patrol agent she wanted a lawyer to claim asylum. The agent said she will be able to ask for one at the next facility. At the next facility she asked again and said she needed help to file for protection. The agent she spoke to at that facility knew Spanish. This agent said he couldn’t do anything about it and that she could tell someone in the next facility she will be transferred to. Then she was taken to the Tucson Border Patrol station where she told another agent she wanted a lawyer to file for asylum. The agent said he was not going to violate immigration law for her or anyone else. He said she did not have rights because she arrived illegally. She tried to tell her story of violence and persecution to several other agents, but the first one didn’t allow her to speak to anyone else and just shouted at her to get on the bus.

She was expelled to Nogales, Sonora. She fears that Mexico is also unsafe for her since it is where the cartel who kidnapped her operates. While in Mexico, she has been “approached by men in a dark vehicle” and she worries that she will be attacked.

KBI filed a February 5, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On February 25, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint, recorded it intheir database, and no further actions would be taken. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, No Further Action

Victim Classification: Domestic Violence Victim, Female, Honduras, Kidnap Victim

January 29, 2021

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed Diosmani Ramos, a 23-year-old Cuban migrant, as he emerged from the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas.

Helen Diéguez, Ramos’s partner, told Univisión that when Ramos reached the river bank, the agent was pointing a gun at him. “Diosmani grabbed a stone, the officer told him to drop it, and when the young man did not do so, he shot him in the chest.” When Ramos fell to the ground after being shot, the agent “told him again to drop the stone, he did not drop it because he was on the ground doubled over in pain, and then the agent shot him five more times.”

“If what they wanted was to grab him, there were many ways to do it, not by shooting him six times in the chest. That’s why we believe it was murder,” Diéguez said.

“The incident occurred while the agent was attempting to apprehend a subject and the agent discharged his weapon,” a CBP release noted, adding, “The incident is currently under investigation by the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility, DHS Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (original link).”

— “UPDATE: CBP Statement on Agent Involved Fatal Shooting in Hidalgo, TX” (Hidalgo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 29, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/update-cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-hidalgo-tx.

— “‘Fue un asesinato’: pareja del joven cubano baleado en la frontera por un agente de la patrulla fronteriza de EEUU” (Miami: Univisión, February 2, 2021) https://www.univision.com/local/miami-wltv/fue-un-asesinato-pareja-del-cubano-baleado-en-la-frontera-por-un-agente-de-la-patrulla-fronteriza-de-eeuu.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: Cuba, Single Adult

January 29, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described rough treatment during Border Patrol apprehension of a Guatemalan man in southern Arizona.

A Guatemalan man entered the United States near Sasabe, Sonora and walked for four hours before being met by Border Patrol who were on motorcycles. At first the man started to run, but when the official got closer, he stopped and put his hands up. The agent then grabbed him and shoved him to the ground, causing pain to his shoulder. He was then moved to Tucson. He was not given any medical attention for his shoulder. He was instead expelled to Nogales, while he was still experiencing pain.

On the same day the complaint was filed [February 2, 2021], the local CBP OPR contact responded inquiring about photos or medical records associated with the abuse. On 2/8/2021, a week after the initial complaint was filed, KBI received an email from CRCL stating that they received the complaint, recorded it in their database, and no further actions would be taken. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Medical Care, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, No Further Action

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition, Single Adult

January 28, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed allegations of cruel treatment during a Border Patrol apprehension.

A Guatemalan man crossed into the United States and was detained in the desert. The border patrol agents who arrested them were driving a four wheeler. They drove really fast, right towards the immigrants. The immigrants had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over. The Guatemalan man fell over when he jumped out of the way. Despite not resisting arrest, an agent put his hand around the migrant’s neck and pulled him to handcuff him. The agents were laughing as they handcuffed him. Despite cold temperatures, he was made to remove his outerwear and walk only in a t-shirt. He was forced to walk 20 minutes handcuffed. Afterwards, he was transported to Tucson and promptly expelled.

KBI filed a January 29, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On March 18, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint, recorded it in their database, and no further actions would be taken. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, No Further Action

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

January 27, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

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

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

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

January 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK detailed the experience of a Honduran woman who had fled, with two teenage sons, after organized crime killed several members of her immediate family.

The guide who was taking them across the border instructed one of the boys to cross first. The woman and the younger son crossed later and were detained at the border in Southern Arizona. CBP officers shouted at them in English, which the woman and boy did not speak. Later, at the CBP station, she told an agent that she wanted to request asylum, and that she had a daughter who was living in the US with special needs. He said that at this time there is no access to asylum for single women. He said only unaccompanied minors could access asylum. She began to cry and said nothing else. She and her younger son were expelled to Mexico.

KBI filed a January 27, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On February 5, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

January 23, 2021

As migration, most of it asylum-seeking, increased in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Border Patrol began keeping hundreds of families for days at a time under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, Texas, while they awaited processing. The ACLU described the outdoor site as “buried deep on federal property and out of public view.”

The March 24, 2021 Los Angeles Times reported, “Up to 600 families were assembled in recent days at the site under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, Texas, sleeping in the dirt, exposed to the elements, without much food or access to medical care.”

“We asked them why we were there for so long,” Karen Coello, 24, of Honduras, who had been kept at the site for three days with her 5-year-old daughter, Valeria, said Tuesday after being released to a local shelter. “All they told us was, ‘That’s your problem.’”

Border Patrol chose the location for this “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) “so that agents could easily expel eligible migrants to Mexico via the bridge” using the Title 42 pandemic authority, according to the Times.

The ACLU reported on a visit to the TOPS site months later:

In late June 2021, we joined a brief official tour of the Anzalduas TOPS, during which Border Patrol representatives described the site as being used exclusively to hold families with children under 7 years old. Though we were not allowed to speak with those detained there, what we observed was deeply concerning.

The temperature was in the 90s. For the dozens of children and adults detained outdoors in the heat, only a fan and a set of overhead sprinklers provided plainly inadequate cooling. At a meeting in May, a Border Patrol representative justified holding families in the South Texas summer heat by egregiously claiming that the conditions are preferable to many migrants, who Border Patrol described as “not used to air conditioning.”

In addition to having no basic temperature controls, the TOPS has a bare-bones structure that lacks other minimal protections. Families are funneled through a series of outdoor areas surrounded by plastic fencing. We observed them being held in an area with hard benches and gravel as the only places to rest or sleep.

Border Patrol told us there is no medical staff on site beyond emergency medical personnel, and the nearest paved road to get to medical aid is a five to 10 minute drive away. Border Patrol has even given us conflicting answers about what, if any, detention standards apply to the site. This is particularly troubling since detention standards mandate a “reasonable and comfortable” temperature for those detained — contrary to the very design of the TOPS.

Just last week in the Rio Grande Valley, we interviewed recently released families with small children who reported that thousands of people were being held at the site. Every family reported spending two or three days under the bridge. Mothers shared that Border Patrol denied their pleas for medical care for sick children and that they experienced miserable conditions in high temperatures.

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of two Honduran families that each spent three days in custody at TOPS in July 2021.

In January 2022 report on a July 2021 visit the Rio Grande Valley sector, the DHS Inspector-General noted that TOPS did not meet detention standards “but lessened overcrowding and health risks for detainees” (original link). The report found that “water, snacks, and food for babies and children were readily available.”

— Shaw Drake, Kate Huddleston, “Border Patrol Must Stop Holding People in an Inhumane Outside Pen Under a Highway in South Texas” (El Paso: ACLU of Texas, August 9, 2021) https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/border-patrol-must-stop-holding-people-in-an-inhumane-outside-pen-under-a-highway-in-south-texas/.

— Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Border Patrol holds migrant families for days under a south Texas bridge” (Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2021) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-03-24/texas-migrants-border-bridge.

Rio Grande Valley Area Border Patrol Struggles with High Volumes of Detainees and Cases of Prolonged Detention but Has Taken Consistent Measures to Improve Conditions in Facilities, Report OIG-22-22 (Washington: DHS Office of Inspector-General, January 27, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-02/OIG-22-22-Feb22.pdf.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 17, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed the experience of a Venezuelan man detained by Border Patrol after entering the United States.

He had narrowly escaped criminals who tried to pull him back to Mexico. They managed to take his backpack, which had his phone and other belongings. It was soon after this that he was detained. He was taken to Ajo Station, where he was forced to sign several documents, most of which were in English, a language he does not speak. He fled Venezuela because of persecution he experienced. When he told the agents he was afraid to return to Venezuela, they asked him which was more dangerous: Mexico or Venezuela. He told them he thought both were dangerous. The following day he was forced to sign papers and said he was being expelled under MPP; he was also told he would be given an opportunity to speak with an immigration official in Tucson the following day. This was a lie; he was never given this opportunity. He was transported to Tucson and expelled to Nogales, Sonora two days later.

KBI filed a January 22, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On January 29, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint, recorded it in their database, and no further actions would be taken. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, No Further Action

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela