6 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in November 2021

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

November, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of an 18-year-old Cuban from the rest of his family at the border.

In November 2021, DHS separated an 18-year-old Cuban teenager from his parents and younger sister when they sought protection together at the border. While the rest of his family was paroled, DHS transferred the child to the Moshannon Valley Processing Center—a new immigration detention center opened by the Biden administration in Pennsylvania—placed him in removal proceedings and jailed him for over two months. ICE only released him in February 2022 after his attorney at Aldea PJC submitted a parole request.

“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: Cuba, Family Unit

Late November 2021

Rodney Scott, the Trump administration’s last Border Patrol chief who exited his position in August, faced a San Diego Superior Court judge for a September tweet in which he advised former Border Patrol agent turned activist Jenn Budd, who has recounted being raped at the Border Patrol academy, to “lean back, close your eyes, and just enjoy the show.” Budd also posted screenshots on Twitter showing Scott among those on private CBP and Border Patrol agents’ Facebook groups sharing images of Border Patrol shoulder patches reading “Let’s Go Brandon,” a right-wing euphemism for “F— Joe Biden.”

— Emily Green, “Did Trump’s Border Patrol Chief Make a Rape Threat? A Judge Says Yes.” (Vice, December 2, 2021) https://www.vice.com/en/article/epxx9n/trumps-border-patrol-chief-rape-threat-on-twitter.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Sexual Assault or Harassment

Last Known Accountability Status: Judicial Case Closed

Victim Classification: Female, Sexual Abuse Victim, U.S. Citizen or Resident

November 18, 2021

CBP took 2,021 formal disciplinary actions against members of its 60,000-person workforce in fiscal year 2020, up from 1,629 actions in 2019, according to a new Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability. (original link)

Half of those disciplinary actions were reprimands. In 86 cases was the employee removed. Another 2,112 cases ended up with required counselings.

The report notes 196 CBP employees being arrested a total of 201 times in 2020. “On average, the employee arrested was 41 years of age and had served just over ten years with CBP at the time of arrest.” The vast majority of arrests were for “Drug / Alcohol Related Misconduct” or “Domestic / Family Misconduct.” Four cases were labeled “Corruption.”

The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) opened 516 investigations into use of force incidents in 2020, 17 of them for use of deadly force. The vast majority of cases were closed because the agents were found not to be violating policy. Of use-of-force cases closed with a disciplinary outcome, 1 resulted in a removal, 2 in reprimands, and 5 with counselings.

OPR opened 1,947 new investigations in 2020, and closed 1,994 existing investigations.

Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability FY2020 (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, November 18, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/report-internal-investigations-and-employee-accountability-fy2020.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, DHS OIG investigation Closed, OPR Investigation Closed, Personnel Terminated, Suspension, Reprimand, or Counseling

Victim Classification:

November 17, 2021

Just before a mandate that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22, Border Patrol had a 79 percent rate of full vaccination. Another 16 percent of agents had pending requests for exemptions from the mandate, much higher than the federal government average, leaving 5 percent unvaccinated or unresponsive. At the Intercept, Ken Klippenstein wrote about agents who resent or are resisting the vaccine mandate. In it, an agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector sent an e-mail to 3,000 colleagues that began, “You said, ‘STOP THE SPREAD!!’ but that should have been our battle cry, ‘STOP THE SPREAD OF ILLEGAL ALIENS INTO THE COUNTRY.”

— Valerie Gonzalez, “Border Patrol prepares to address non-compliant unvaccinated agents” (McAllen: The Monitor, November 27, 2021) https://myrgv.com/featured/2021/11/27/border-patrol-prepares-to-address-non-compliant-unvaccinated-agents/.

— Ken Klippenstein, “The Biden Administration’s Game of Chicken With Border Patrol Over Vaccines” (The Intercept, December 1, 2021) https://theintercept.com/2021/12/01/covid-vaccine-mandate-border-patrol/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Disregard of Public Health, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

November 13, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “A.V.R.N.,” who had prescription medication taken away by CBP Field Operations personnel at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico, west of El Paso.

In the past months, I had surgery on my leg. On Nov. 13, I went for a follow-up to Juarez so they could remove the nails from my leg. While at the doctor’s, I was prescribed Tramadol with Ketorolac for the pain because I had severe pain. I bought a box with ten pills.

At the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, the officer, who seemed to be of Latin origin, asked me if I was bringing back money or medicine supposedly because he saw me on crutches. I told him I did have medicine with me and showed him the prescription.

The officer then sent me to secondary inspection and told me to step out of the car. After struggling, I was able to get out of the car, and three more officers showed up. An Anglo, a Hispanic female officer, and one Hispanic male officer around 50-60 years old. This last officer was the one who did not allow me to bring in my medicine. The other two officers kept asking him to allow me to bring my medication since I had a prescription and it was only ten pills, which I really needed. But he refused, stating that the prescription was not valid in the U.S. and that the pills were like bringing in weed.

That night I was in so much pain because I could only take Tylenol for my pain.

The Border Network for Human Rights stated that it shared this and other testimonies in its February 2022 abuse monitoring report “with the agencies involved.”

The State of Human Rights at the U.S. – Mexico Border: Abuse Documentation 2022 Campaign Report (El Paso, Border Network for Human Rights, February 22, 2022) https://bnhr.org/abuse-documentation-2022-campaign-report/.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

November 3, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “L.L.,” who said she was invasively strip-searched by CBP Field Operations personnel at El Paso’s Santa Fe (Paso del Norte Bridge) Port of Entry.

I, L. L., want to tell you what happened to me on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. I went to Ciudad Juárez to buy medicine for my son. When I got to the Paso del Norte Port of Entry, the CBP officer asked me, “why did you go to Juarez?” I showed him the medicine that I bought with the prescription. The CBP officer told me I needed to go through a secondary inspection.

The CBP officer took me to a room with two female officers. One of them touched my private parts in a very strange way; the officer was a brunette, Hispanic, and robust woman who spoke to me in Spanish. The officer said, “tell me what you have.” I told her I only brought medicine for my son. The CBP officer then asked me to squat. When I questioned why I had to do that, the CBP officer stated it was a routine check, that for every ten people who cross, they stop one and check them this way.

I felt awful during and after the search, especially with the way they searched me. I am an American citizen, and I have never had any problems with anyone. I am afraid to go through a port of entry again because of that experience.

The Border Network for Human Rights stated that it shared this and other testimonies in its February 2022 abuse monitoring report “with the agencies involved.”

The State of Human Rights at the U.S. – Mexico Border: Abuse Documentation 2022 Campaign Report (El Paso, Border Network for Human Rights, February 22, 2022) https://bnhr.org/abuse-documentation-2022-campaign-report/.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Wrongful Strip Search

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

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