15 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in July 2021

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

July, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed a Guatemalan asylum-seeking father’s prolonged separation from his family.

In July 2021, DHS separated a Guatemalan asylum seeker from his wife and two young daughters when they tried to request protection together at the U.S. border. The family fled Guatemala after receiving death threats in retaliation for working with the police to enable the arrest of a high-level leader of a powerful gang. According to RAICES, ICE detained the man, who suffers from diabetes, in a Texas detention center, where he nearly fainted because he was not provided with an appropriate diet to meet his medical needs. ICE continued to refuse to release him for months after an immigration judge determined that he has a reasonable fear of persecution.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

July 30, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the improper expulsion into Mexico of a Guatemalan man, resident in Arizona, with documented status in the United States.

A Guatemalan man who has been in the United States since 2005 was detained in the desert while trying to pick up his wife. He went to pick her up, but they got lost in the desert. Eventually they called 911 for help. The Pima County Sheriff’s officer then detained them. Border Patrol arrived at the scene, and they were then handed over to them.

Despite having a work permit, which he tried to present to agents, he was not allowed to leave the checkpoint. He was not crossing the border. CBP officers then forced him to sign a document and put him in a vehicle and they told him he was going to be expelled under Title 42. He was expelled in Nogales.

KBI filed an August 9, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). As of August 17, 2021, KBI had not yet received a response.

The same report described Border Patrol’s expulsion of the man’s wife who, though undocumented, had been in the United States since 2018 and thus should not have been subject to expulsion.

A Honduran woman who has been in the United States since 2018 was visiting a friend when they noticed a CBP checkpoint on the way. Fearing what may come, she got out of the car on the roadside to avoid the checkpoint because of her immigration status. She called her husband to pick her up, but he refused to come at first, fearing that he would be mistaken for a smuggler. Eventually, he came to get her, but they got lost in the desert and in the early hours of the morning called 911 to rescue them.

The Pima County Sheriff’s officer then detained her. CBP arrived at the scene, and she was handed over to them. She was not crossing the border. The CBP officers then forced her to sign a document and put her in a vehicle, telling her she was going to expelled under Title 42. She was expelled in Nogales.”

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): Inappropriate Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

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

July 30, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of a Honduran family while in custody at Border Patrol’s “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) facility under a bridge in Mission, Texas, and their subsequent lateral expulsion via Nogales, Arizona.

A Honduran man, wife and daughter entered the United States and were detained in [across from] Reynosa. They told the agents who detained them that they wanted to seek asylum. The agents said “no,” that there was nothing the agents could do for them; however, the agents asked the family to write down their names.

The family was taken under a bridge, where they were told to sleep outdoors, on the concrete. They were not given food or water for 10 hours. There were several hundred other migrants under the bridge with no access to running water. All the migrants were confined in a small space where they could touch each other. There were three toilets (port-o-potties) for several hundred migrants. There were no facilities for them to bathe under the bridge.

On the fourth day, the family was flown to Tucson where they were finally able to wash themselves, though they were detained there for four days and only allowed to wash that one time. In Tucson, they asked again to be considered for asylum but were again told no. The agents also shouted at the immigrants asking them to shut their kids up.

The agents told the family that since they came to the US illegally, they had no right to asylum, and that they should attempt to seek asylum at the nearby port of entry. From there, they were expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed an August 11, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). As of August 17, KBI had not yet received a response.

KBI and NETWORK recorded a similar account, for July 23, 2021, of a Honduran family that spent three days at TOPS before being laterally expelled via Nogales.

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): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

July 23, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of a Honduran family while in custody at Border Patrol’s “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) facility under a bridge in Mission, Texas, and their subsequent lateral expulsion via Nogales, Arizona.

A Honduran man, his wife, and daughter entered the United States near McAllen, Texas where they were detained. They were kept under an overpass with hundreds of other migrants. The agents took their temperatures and biometric data.

There was a medical tent, but the family could not get medical attention. Their infant daughter became sick while they were there. Although they asked for medical attention for their baby, the agents refused to provide any.

They were held there for three days. This family was exposed to the elements and went without basic necessities like running water, beds to sleep in, etc. They were only fed twice a day.

Border Patrol would periodically call names to board buses; if you missed your name, you had to wait until next time they came to call your name. Because of this, people chose to remain awake rather than risk missing their chance to leave. The father recalls the brutal sleep deprivation this caused.

After three days the Border Patrol transferred them to a facility. At the facility the agents confiscated all their belongings (clothes, medicine, diapers, phone chargers, etc.). They were not given anything to eat at the facility for the whole day. The father was temporarily separated from his wife and daughter and placed in a separate holding facility with about fifty others, who had been at the facility for some time.

Eventually, the agents took down details of the family members they had in the US and told them they could leave once their family members had paid for their travel. This was a lie. The family was instead taken to the airport and flown to Tucson, AZ and then expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed an August 3, 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 “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

KBI and NETWORK recorded a similar account, for July 30, 2021, of a Honduran family that spent three days at TOPS before being laterally expelled via Nogales.

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): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

July 15, 2021

Border Patrol agent Rodney Tolson pled guilty to conspiring to transport an undocumented alien within the United States. Tolson admitted taking $400-per-person payments in 2019 for allowing non-citizens to pass through the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate Highway 35 north of Laredo, Texas.

According to the plea agreement, as cited in the Washington Post, Tolson helped a migrant smuggler by “waving him through the checkpoint.”

According to the co-conspirator, Tolson would call to report “which lane and time window to use for crossing through the checkpoint,” the plea agreement says.

At one point, the co-conspirator asked if Tolson was ready to make money.

“U know it,” Tolson said in a WhatsApp social media message the co-conspirator shared with federal agents.

Their transactions would usually take place in the parking lot of a Walmart near the border, where Tolson would receive $400 per person, the documents state.

The DHS Inspector General and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigated Tolson’s case, and referred it to the Department of Justice. On May 24, 2022, Tolson was sentenced in Laredo federal district court to 21 months in prison (original link).

— Julian Mark, “A Border Patrol agent was supposed to guard a U.S.-Mexico checkpoint. He took $400 bribes to smuggle migrants.” (Washington: The Washington Post, July 14, 2021) https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/07/14/border-patrol-agent-admits-bribes/.

— “Federal agent sent to prison for alien smuggling” (Laredo: U.S. Department of Justice Southern District of Texas, May 24, 2022) https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/federal-agent-sent-prison-alien-smuggling.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Corruption

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Conviction, DHS OIG investigation Closed, Judicial Case Closed, OPR Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

July 21, 2021

Gregson Martínez, a Border Patrol processing coordinator at the Processing Center in Donna, Texas, struck a 17-year-old Honduran citizen in the face while questioning him about his age and citizenship. Mr. Martínez was terminated on August 2, 2021, and pled guilty on May 13, 2022 to violating the teenager’s constitutional rights. (original link)

The DHS Office of Inspector-General and CBP Office of Professional Responsibility conducted the investigation of Martínez, and the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted the case. Martínez faces up to a year in prison and a possible maximum $100,000 fine; sentencing was scheduled for June 24, 2022.

— “Federal agent admits to violating civil rights of a Honduran teenager” (Texas: U.S. Department of Justice, May 13, 2022) https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/federal-agent-admits-violating-civil-rights-honduran-teenager.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Processing Coordinators

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Conviction, DHS OIG investigation Closed, Judicial Case Closed, OPR Investigation Closed

Victim Classification: Honduras, Unaccompanied Child

July 20, 2021

A report from the DHS Office of Inspector-General found that “CBP needs better oversight and policy” to attend to migrants experiencing medical emergencies or illnesses while in the agency’s custody (original link).

Though the agency had created new policies and expanding contracts of medical personnel at its facilities, “CBP could not always demonstrate staff conducted required medical screenings or consistent welfare checks for all 98 individuals whose medical cases we reviewed.” CBP agents and officers, the report found, were not adequately trained to identify medical attention needs.

A September 14, 2021 Inspector General report on the May 2019 in-custody death of a Guatemalan teenager found that Border Patrol agents had faked log entries of welfare checks that were not performed (original link).

CBP Needs to Strengthen Its Oversight and Policy to Better Care for Migrants Needing Medical Attention, Report OIG-21-48 (Washington: DHS Office of Inspector General, July 20, 2021) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2021-07/OIG-21-48-Jul21.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification: Medical Condition

Mid-July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

At least five different migrants arriving at our Migrant Aid Center in the last two weeks shared that BP agents have adopted a manipulative strategy to avoid providing medical attention to migrants in their custody. Officers tell migrants at one processing center that they will receive medical attention at the next processing center. When migrants arrive at the next center, agents there tell them the same thing, and the migrants are instead expelled to Mexico without ever having received medical attention.

— “July 22 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 22, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

Victim Classification: Medical Condition

Mid-July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Recently, one of our legal service partners spoke with Maily Martinez, who attempted to cross the border with her husband and son near the Yuma port of entry in early July. Maily was eight months pregnant with twins at the time. When BP agents encountered the family, the woman expressed that she urgently needed medical attention, but the agents ignored her and expelled her back to Mexico. She realized shortly after that the twins had died, likely right around the time that Border Patrol denied her medical aid.

A Noticias Telemundo story about the Honduran woman’s case, citing the hospital in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, noted that the fetuses perished from “interruption of feto-placental circulation.” The news outlet asked Border Patrol about the case; the agency responded, “We do not comment on individual cases due to privacy issues.”

— “July 22 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 22, 2021).

— “Madre inmigrante pierde bebés tras ser deportada de EE.UU.” (United States: Noticias Telemundo, July 8, 2021) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXZ9e1jQTew.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras, Medical Condition, Pregnancy

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed a Guatemalan family’s conditions in Border Patrol custody while seeking, without success, to seek asylum in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman and her two young daughters entered the United States through the desert and encountered a Border Patrol agent. They were detained and moved to a facility with cold rooms. Then they were transferred to Tucson.

There, she told an agent that she had injured her foot while walking in the desert and needed medical attention. The agent agreed, but then she walked away and never came back. She was never given any medical attention.

They were made to sit in the chairs at the Tucson facility; the children could not sleep. At the facility, they were forced to take off any extra clothing and allowed to wear only a t-shirt and pants. Her daughter was shivering. They asked for blankets but were given only one small one many hours later. She tried to tell agents she wanted to seek asylum, but no one listened to her.

The next morning the family was expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed a July 23, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 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): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, Medical Condition

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s experience with her children while in Border Patrol custody in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman with her four children crossed into the United States with a big group and encountered a Border Patrol agent in a vehicle. That agent was very nice to them, gave them water and said they could have whatever they needed. He called for more vehicles to carry them all, and they were transferred to a Border Patrol facility that was very cold. Then they were put on buses to Tucson.

At the Tucson border facility, the woman approached an agent asking how they should apply for asylum and informing him that her son has a medical condition and needs medical care. She showed him the documents (a diagnosis, x-rays, etc.) to prove that her son was in need and that he needed surgery within the next two months. The agent took the documents and threw them in the trash. When she went to retrieve them from the trash, he took them again and told her “they belong in the trash.” When she protested, he became angry and told her to go away and gave her a sleeping mat. The mat was soaking wet so that she could not use it. She never got her documents back.

Hours later, she and the children were expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed a July 15, 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 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): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, Medical Condition

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s experience with her family while in Border Patrol custody in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman, her sister (19), brother, and son entered the United States and were all detained by border patrol. At that time the agent was very nice to them and gave them water and took them to a Border Patrol station. They were subsequently moved to Tucson.

There, CBP processed the sister first, and a female CBP agent reached into her sister’s shirt and grabbed sister’s documents from her bra.

Her brother was separated from them, and she did not have any information about his whereabouts as of July 10. She was never told why they separated her brother from her.

She was also then separated from her sister, who CBP says tried to escape them while they were walking in the desert. The woman told agents several times that her sister had not tried to escape apprehension and that they had been together the whole time.

The officers told her “You are not in your country. We are in charge here.” In the facility, the staff at the station refused to give them blankets. In the early morning, she was reunited with her sister on a bus.

She tried several times to tell them she was seeking asylum, but no one listened. CBP kept telling them that this was their country, and they were in charge. The woman, her sister, and son were expelled to Nogales, Sonora in the early morning.

KBI filed a July 23, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 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.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, 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): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Sexual Assault or Harassment

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

Early July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

One teenager arrived with her sister after Border Patrol denied them a credible fear screening. She explained to border officials that she was fleeing the man who raped her, beat her sister, and was pursuing her as she left. On one occasion, a US official reached into her blouse and bra, despite her protests, to take documents relating to her sexual abuse and laughed at her while reading her papers.

— “July 8 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 8, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Sexual Assault or Harassment

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

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Domestic Violence Victim, Female, Sexual Abuse Victim

Early July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

ICE continues to transport migrants to Nogales, Sonora for removal from the U.S. at night. The practice places migrants at an unnecessary increased risk of robbery, kidnapping, and other violent crimes, and excludes them from coordination and reception services available for recently removed migrants.

Because of the well- known danger of said practice, Local Repatriation Agreements between U.S. and Mexican authorities prohibited night deportations for years, but since spring of 2020 these removals have occurred very frequently.

KBI staff and migrants have reported nighttime deportations on at least five nights in the last two weeks. Because shelters are closed when migrants are deported or expelled at night, many individuals are forced to sleep outside of the port of entry on benches. One night last week migrants were expelled in the midst of a heavy rain that flooded the streets near the port of entry.

— “July 8 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 8, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): ICE

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

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

Victim Classification:

Early July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Several people who arrived at our Migrant Aid Center in Nogales reported brutal treatment by Border Patrol agents encountered in the desert. Two different people reported that agents slammed them to the ground after lifting them by the neck, one person was dragged through thorns, and one was handcuffed, tied to a horse, and forced to walk behind the horse for two hours.

— “July 8 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 8, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult