12 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in April 2022

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

April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) in Nogales, which issues frequent reports of misconduct to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), noted that the agency has begun closing complaints that, in fact, remain open.

In the last month, we have received notifications from the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that 8 separate complaints we had filed regarding abuses under Title 42 were being closed because of ongoing litigation and instructed us to file new complaints after the resolution of the litigation if there were pending issues. We have never before received such correspondence from CRCL. Not only does it indicate an avoidance of the office’s responsibilities, but it will also artificially inflate the statistics they report to Congress on the number and percentage of complaints that were “closed” when in fact they remain unresolved. Such efforts to avoid exercising oversight are widespread and were also reflected in recent reports that DHS OIG had deleted or delayed reports for years on DHS law enforcement misconduct.

— “April 28 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 28, 2022).

Sector(s): Border-Wide, Tucson

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

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

Victim Classification:

April 23, 2022

A Border Patrol pursuit, which bystanders estimated to be in excess of 100 miles per hour, ended in the death of a driver in El Cajon, California, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The driver being pursued “lost control, flew off the freeway and went down an embankment, crashing into a tree.” The California Highway Patrol (CHP) “said it was still working to determine why the driver was being pursued. A Border Patrol spokesperson deferred all questions to CHP.”

— Kristina Davis, Natallie Rocha, “Driver dies in crash during Border Patrol pursuit” (San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, April 23, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2022-04-23/border-patrol-pursuit.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under Local Police investigation, Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

April 20, 2022

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Border Patrol has been undercounting the actual number of migrant deaths in the U.S.-Mexico border region. (original link) For instance, Border Patrol in Arizona routinely reports finding roughly half as many remains as the Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants.

Southwest Border: CBP Should Improve Data Collection, Reporting, and Evaluation for the Missing Migrant Program, GAO-22-105053 (Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 20, 2022) https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105053.

— Ryan Devereaux, “The Border Patrol Is Systemically Failing to Count Migrant Deaths” (United States: May 9, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/05/09/border-patrol-migrant-deaths-gao/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: GAO Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

Mid-April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about Border Patrol confiscating asylum-seeking migrants’ mobile phones before expelling them into Nogales, Mexico under Title 42.

A young Mexican woman left her hometown because she had received death threats. She arrived at the border earlier this month and attempted to cross into the US. She was detained by Border Patrol agents who confiscated her belongings, including her cell phone. When she was going to be expelled into Mexico, a Border Patrol agent asked her to sign a paper saying that she would return in 30 days to collect her belongings. She asked the BP agent, “How will I collect my belongings in 30 days? Do I have to climb over the wall again?” The Border Patrol agent just laughed and said he didn’t know. Border Patrol also confiscated several other women ‘s phones from the same group. A few of them were crying because they did not know their family members’ phone numbers to contact them. One young woman in the group was from an indigenous community in southern Mexico and did not speak Spanish. She had been separated from her husband and now had no way to contact him.

— “April 28 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 28, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Indigenous, Mexico, Single Adult

March and April, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado lists several examples of San Diego CBP port-of-entry officers’ refusals to grant humanitarian exceptions to Title 42 for especially vulnerable asylum seekers.

In April 2022, CBP denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Nigerian man with glaucoma and hand tremors who was beaten by police in Mexico; a gay Venezuelan man living with HIV who is partially deaf; a Mexican torture survivor with diabetes; a Haitian woman with a high-risk pregnancy who is experiencing food insecurity; and a disabled Honduran man whose injuries from a car accident have become infected and who needs specialized medical treatment. These requests had been submitted by Ginger Cline, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.

CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry have also recently denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Mexican woman fleeing threats by a cartel who murdered the woman’s husband and whose 12-year- old son has a pacemaker and urgently needs specialized medical treatment; a 14-year-old with a traumatic brain injury he incurred from falling from a two-story building to escape kidnappers; and a two- year-old Honduran asylum-seeking child with severe and worsening epilepsy who suffers from eight- minute-long seizures. Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with Immigrant Defenders Law Center in San Diego, had submitted these requests ultimately denied by CBP.

CBP at the San Ysidro port of entry has failed to respond to humanitarian exemption requests submitted months ago, including for a LGBTQ woman with maternal uterine fibroids who experiences constant bleeding after she was raped twice in Mexico in bias-motivated attacks based on her sexual orientation and for a Mexican domestic violence victim whose husband found her in Tijuana and kidnapped her daughter, according to Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Disability, Domestic Violence Victim, Family Unit, Female, Haiti, Honduras, Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Mexico, Nigeria, Pregnancy, Single Adult, Venezuela

April 15, 2022

A Border Patrol vehicle pursuit about seven miles east of Edinburg, Texas, reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. The vehicle being pursued, a 2020 GMC Sierra with eight people on board, six of them undocumented, lost control and rolled over. The driver and a passenger died on the scene, while the remaining passengers were “transported by air and ground ambulances to the hospital for injuries that ranged from minor to severe,” according to the Rio Grande Valley Monitor.

— Mark Reagan, “Border Patrol chase ending in double fatality reached speeds of 100 mph” (McAllen: The Monitor, April 18, 2022) https://myrgv.com/local-news/2022/04/18/border-patrol-chase-ending-in-double-fatality-reached-speeds-of-100-mph/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

April 14, 2022

CBP took 1,919 formal disciplinary actions against members of its 60,000-person workforce in fiscal year 2021, down from 2,021 actions in 2020 and up from 1,629 in 2019, according to a new Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability. (original link).

Just over half of those disciplinary actions (996) were reprimands. In 100 cases were employees removed. Another 2,076 cases ended up with required counselings. These were all roughly similar to 2020 figures.

The report notes 246 CBP employees being arrested a total of 253 times in 2021, a 23 percent increase in arrests over 2020, a year of relatively few arrests. “On average, the employee arrested was 40 years of age and had served just over

10 years with CBP at the time of arrest.” The vast majority of arrests were for “Drug / Alcohol Related Misconduct” or “Domestic / Family Misconduct.” Nine cases were labeled “Corruption,” up from four in 2020.

The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) opened 684 investigations into use of force incidents in 2021, up from 516 in 2020. Twenty-one were for use of deadly force, up from seventeen in 2020. 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, 11 resulted in counselings.

OPR opened 1,044 investigations in 2021, down from 1,947 new investigations in 2020. It closed 1,162 investigations, down from 1,994 in 2020.

Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability FY2021 (Washington: CBP, April 14, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/report-internal-investigations-and-employee-accountability-fy2021.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies):

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:

April 10, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about expulsions of women and minors in the middle of the night in Nogales:

KBI staff also received reports that Border Patrol expelled dozens of migrants over these last few days at around 2AM. Despite the fact that local CBP officials assured KBI staff that they would not expel women, minors or other groups that would be particularly at risk during the night, the group expelled on Sunday at 1AM included both women and minors.

— “April 14 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 14, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

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

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Female

Early April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about two Guatemalan men who were expelled to Nogales, Mexico in the middle of the night:

Pablo and William (not real names) arrived at Kino the morning after Border Patrol agents expelled them to Nogales, México. They are both Guatemalan nationals, and had originally crossed in another location, and so were unfamiliar with the area. They both reported that they were expelled around 2 in the morning. As they did not have anywhere to go, they spent the night out in the open, trying to sleep on the ground, and without anything to protect themselves from the cold. Pablo is an older man, while William is in his early twenties. Pablo indicated that when Border Patrol detained him, he requested medical attention as he felt severely dehydrated. Although he complained to Border Patrol of chest pains and a headache, his request was ignored. It was only after he arrived to Kino that he was finally able to receive medical assistance.

— “April 14 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 14, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

Early April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a man whom Border Patrol injured and expelled into Mexico near Nogales, Arizona:

Last week, a Border Patrol agent ran over Marco Antonio (not real name), a Guatemalan national, with his four-wheeler before pushing him to the ground and detaining him. The BP agent first hit him with the front bumper and then ran over his right leg with one of the front wheels. Another BP agent realized that Marco Antonio could not walk, and so picked him up and carried him to another four-wheeler to transport him to the hospital. At the hospital, Marco Antonio was treated for severe dehydration and a dislocated knee joint. Hours later, he was transported to the border in Nogales, where they arrived around noon. Mexican immigration officials refused to accept him because of his condition, as he was unable to walk. Border Patrol then drove him back to the station, and later that day, they took him back to Nogales, where they expelled him on or after 10PM, when there were no Mexican authorities to receive him.

— “April 14 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 14, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Dangerous Deportation, Pedestrian Strike, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

April 7, 2022

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained documents from the DHS Office of Inspector-General (OIG) indicating that the agency’s independent watchdog has been suppressing, delaying, and watering down information about serious patterns of sexual harassment and domestic abuse within the Department’s law enforcement agencies.

The POGO report, “Protecting the Predators at DHS,” offers some shocking findings, as does the New York Times’s April 7 coverage of the report. They include:

  • A 2018 OIG survey found that more than 10,000 CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. That is more than a third of the 28,000 survey respondents. Of these, 78 percent said they did not report the incident, often out of a belief that doing so would derail their careers. Examples included “surreptitious videotaping in bathrooms, unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate sexual comments.” The survey was part of an OIG report for which fieldwork ended two and a half years ago, in October 2019—but the report had still not seen the light of day.
  • Of 1,800 sexual harassment cases within the Department, 445 were at ICE and 382 were at CBP.
  • The unpublished OIG report found that DHS agencies paid 21 employees nearly $1 million in settlements from sexual harassment-related complaints over six years, but there are few records of any investigations or disciplinary actions against the aggressors. One victim received a $255,000 payout. Senior officials at the OIG objected to mentioning these settlements in the as-yet unpublished report.
  • The unpublished OIG report notes that “women made up only 5 percent of CBP’s Border Patrol workforce,” well below the federal law enforcement average of 15 percent.
  • Another OIG report, published in 2020, covered DHS law-enforcement personnel found to have committed domestic violence when off duty. Inspector-General Joseph Cuffari and his staff pushed to withhold many key findings that had appeared in this report’s earlier drafts. Initially, the report found that agents who committed domestic abuse received “little to no discipline.” In an internal memo, Cuffari ordered that removed, calling it “second-guessing D.H.S. disciplinary decisions without full facts.” This language is troubling, as second-guessing disciplinary decisions is something that inspectors-general are often compelled to do.
  • Employing law enforcement personnel with a demonstrated propensity for abusing domestic partners and family members “raises questions about someone’s fitness for the job if they abuse someone they have committed their life to,” James Wong, a former CBP deputy assistant commissioner for internal affairs, told POGO. “How are they going to treat a total stranger they have no relationship with [like a migrant]? Who’s going to stop them?” The OIG report’s draft had raised concerns that allowing these agents to keep their weapons “put[s] victims and the public at risk of further violence,” but Cuffari ordered that language removed for risk of “appearing biased.”

POGO, a non-governmental watchdog group, has published past reports and allegations critical of Cuffari, whom Donald Trump named to the DHS Inspector-General post in 2019. “The suppressed DHS watchdog reports on sexual misconduct and domestic violence are part of a pattern where Cuffari has appeared unwilling to oversee his department as an independent watchdog,” POGO’s report contends. “Sadly, Cuffari himself has an undeniable pattern of removing significant facts and evidence from major reports. As a result of this pattern, his independence and impartiality are in question.”

“Only hours after the story appeared,” POGO notes, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “announced he had become ‘aware of draft unpublished reports from the Office of the Inspector General that underscore the need for immediate action.’ Mayorkas announced the creation of a ‘working group’ to ‘conduct a 45-day review of employee misconduct discipline processes currently in effect throughout DHS.'”

On April 26, 2022, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Inspector-General Cuffari voicing concern about POGO’s findings (original link). “Sexual harassment and misconduct in agency ranks always demand immediate action,” reads the letter, which includes a list of questions to be answered by May 17, 2022. “Any efforts by an OIG to obscure or downplay the seriousness or pervasiveness of the issue, or to improperly delay releasing evidence of misconduct, are inappropriate.”

Cuffari responded to the senators with a May 13 letter blaming “senior DHS OIG officials who preceded me,” “the intransigence of some inspectors,” and OIG staff withholding information from him. (original link). The Inspector-General insisted that the withheld reports were not up to established standards, but the letter did not clearly explain why quality improvements would be delayed for years for reports with such striking and significant findings.

“This is not the response of someone committed to meeting the statutory mandate for inspectors general,” read a Twitter thread from POGO’s director of public policy, Liz Hempowicz. “I would never have written this,” Gordon Heddell, a former Defense Department inspector-general, said of the letter in a June 16 New York Times article. “To me, what he’s saying is, ‘I’m leading a very dysfunctional office.’”

On June 16, DHS announced an effort to reform employee misconduct discipline processes. “When Secretary Mayorkas was made aware of the [unpublished draft OIG sexual harassment] report, he immediately launched a 45-day review into Department-wide employee misconduct discipline processes,” the Department’s statement reads (original link). It continues, “Centralizing disciplinary processes will ensure that allegations of serious misconduct are handled by a dedicated group of well-trained individuals, who are not the employees’ immediate supervisors, at each DHS component agency.”

“The announced reforms underscore a deepening rift between the Homeland Security Department and its inspector general,” the New York Times reported on June 16. “While Mr. Mayorkas has taken steps to address the allegations in the reports, Mr. Cuffari and other senior officials in the inspector general’s office have instead either downplayed the significance of the findings or fiercely defended their removal.”

— Adam Zagorin, Nick Schwellenbach, Protecting the Predators at DHS (Washington: Project on Government Oversight, April 7, 2022) https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2022/04/protecting-the-predators-at-dhs/.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Watchdog Omitted Damaging Findings From Reports” (New York, The New York Times, April 7, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/07/us/politics/homeland-security-inspector-general.html.

— Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Charles Grassley, Letter to DHS Inspector-General Joseph V. Cuffari (Washington: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 26, 2022) https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2022-04-26%20RJD%20CEG%20Letter%20to%20IG%20Cuffari.pdf.

Letter from DHS Office of Inspector General to Senators Durbin and Grassley (Washington: DHS OIG, May 13, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/IG-Cuffari-response-to-Chair-Durbin-and-RM-Grassley-20220513-Redacted.pdf.

— “Tweet from Liz Hempowicz @lizhempowicz” (United States: Twitter, May 18, 2022) https://twitter.com/lizhempowicz/status/1527004986613301251.

— “Secretary Mayorkas Directs DHS To Reform Employee Misconduct Discipline Processes” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, June 16, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/06/16/secretary-mayorkas-directs-dhs-reform-employee-misconduct-discipline-processes.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Department Will Make Changes to Its Disciplinary Process” (New York: The New York Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/16/us/politics/homeland-security-department.html.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Sexual Assault or Harassment, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed, Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: DHS Employee

April 4, 2022

In a Fox News appearance, National Border Patrol Council union President Brandon Judd accused the Biden administration and the Democratic Party of allowing migrants into the United States “to change the demographics of the electorate.” According to journalist Melissa del Bosque, “Judd was echoing the ‘great replacement theory,‘ a white-supremacist belief with roots in the French nationalist movement of the early 20th century.”

Judd’s remarks were the subject of a May 6, 2022 USA Today story, which pointed out that this “Great Replacement” notion had appeared in the manifestos of mass shooters. The story voiced concern that Brandon Judd “is a federal employee, paid by taxpayers and tasked with the sensitive job of helping to police the nation’s border for an arm of the executive branch of government.” Judd texted to USA Today that he had never heard of the Great Replacement theory.

— Melissa del Bosque, “The Border Patrol Union Leads the Charge on Title 42 Misinformation” (United States: The Border Chronicle, April 12, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-border-patrol-union-leads-the.

— Will Carless, “’Replacement Theory’ Fuels Extremists and Shooters. Now a Top Border Patrol Agent Is Spreading It.” (USA Today via msn.com, May 6, 2022) https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/replacement-theory-fuels-extremists-and-shooters-now-a-top-border-patrol-agent-is-spreading-it/ar-AAWYxzI.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: