8 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in June 2022

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

June 30, 2022

A Border Patrol-involved vehicle pursuit on Interstate Highway 35, reaching speeds of 90-100 miles per hour, ended in a crash that killed four of seven migrants aboard a Jeep Wrangler in Encinal, Texas (original link). The deceased were male citizens of Mexico and Guatemala.

“This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and reviewed by CBP’s OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility],” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Failure to yield leads to fatal crash off Interstate Highway 35 in Encinal, Texas” (Washington: CBP, July 5, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/failure-yield-leads-fatal-crash-interstate-highway-35-encinal.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Mexico, Single Adult

June 24, 2022

A high-speed vehicle pursuit of a suspected migrant smuggler near Otay Mesa, east of San Diego, California, ended with two men suffering “major injuries” and a Border Patrol agent suffering minor injuries, after both vehicles went off the roadway and crashed into an embankment.

— Doug Aguillard, “Border Patrol Agent & Two Immigrants Injured in Pursuit Crash” (United States: OnScene.tv, June 24, 2022) https://onscene.tv/border-patrol-agent-two-immigrants-injured-in-pursuit-crash-san-diego/.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported that “Border Patrol agents continue to use COVID as a pretext to expel or deport migrants at night, despite previous Local Repatriation Agreements developed for migrant safety.”

* Testimony from arriving migrants and Kino staff confirm that hundreds of migrants have been expelled to Nogales, Mexico between 12AM and 3AM during the last two weeks. 

* Individuals arriving at Kino earlier this week after being deported at 3AM reported that they had not slept since they were detained. 

* Eliseo [Name changed to protect privacy], a middle-aged Mexican man who wanted to seek work in the US so he could save up to return to his hometown and finish constructing a church there, was deported to Mexico with a group of migrants around midnight. Since he did not have anywhere to go, he and about a dozen other migrants slept in the park downtown.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on a Mexican couple whose belongings and medicine were confiscated while in Border Patrol custody.

Humberto [Name changed to protect privacy] together with his wife fled corruption in southern Mexico to migrate to the US and reunite with their US citizen children. …Once they turned themselves in to Border Patrol, the agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico

Mid-June, 2022

Though a May 23, 2022 District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling prohibited CBP personnel from using Title 42 to expel asylum-seeking families to places where they will be persecuted or tortured (original link), the practice continues, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reports.

* Pablo [name changed to protect privacy], a Nicaraguan man traveling with his daughter to escape political persecution in their country, crossed into the US last week to seek asylum. Border Patrol threw away their toiletries, food and other personal items, and expelled them to Nogales, Sonora without a fear assessment. Pablo was not given the chance to speak about his case to anyone. 

* Deysi left Guatemala with her six-year-old daughter about a month ago. Her mother was brutally murdered in her hometown, and the rest of her family members have already fled to the US since her mother’s death. She and her daughter attempted to cross into the US to seek asylum and were quickly detained by Border Patrol. They took down her biographical information and fingerprints, but never gave her the opportunity to explain the danger she was fleeing. 

* Several young mothers and their children from an indigenous community in Guatemala tried to cross into the US to seek asylum earlier this month. All of them spoke Mam, their indigenous language, and some spoke limited Spanish. They were detained in the desert, where Border Patrol agents confiscated their personal items like clothing and medication. When they told a Border Patrol agent that they wanted to seek asylum, the agent dismissed them and ignored their request, saying “Ustedes sabrán qué hacer” [“you’ll know what to do”].  Border Patrol told one of the women from the group that the border was closed and she would need to seek asylum in Mexico. When she shared about the violence she suffered in Guatemala, the agent would not believe her. Another woman from the group was so disoriented by the expulsion process and language barrier that when she arrived at Kino, she asked the staff whether she was in Mexico or the US.

* Yanet, [name changed to protect privacy], a Honduran woman fleeing death threats from organized crime groups because she refused to sell drugs for them, traveled north to seek asylum in the US. Despite the fact that she suffered multiple incidents of rape and assault at the hands of her smugglers, Border Patrol quickly expelled her back to Mexico.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Guatemala, Honduras, Indigenous, Nicaragua

June 16, 2022

On May 23, 2022, a District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling went into effect prohibiting CBP personnel from using Title 42 to expel asylum-seeking families to places where they will be persecuted or tortured (original link). A June 16, 2022 report from Human Rights First, however, found examples of families who, “when they tried to express their fears of return, Border Patrol agents ignored their statements or refused to allow them to speak and failed to refer any for screening”:

Four asylum-seeking families, who were expelled under Title 42 to Ciudad Acuña on May 23, 2022, reported to Human Rights First researchers that Border Patrol agents refused to allow them to explain their fear of return to Mexico or their countries of origin and did not refer them for a fear screening before expelling them.

None of the approximately 50 Honduran and Salvadoran asylum-seeking families, who were interviewed by researchers from the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), had received a fear screening prior to being expelled to Reynosa in late May and early June 2022. According to CGRS’s Legal Director, Blaine Bookey, many families reported that when they attempted to explain their fear of return, Border Patrol officers said, for example, that asylum was not available and that they would only be taking fingerprints and photographs and ordered the families to stop attempting to communicate with the officers. Other families expressed that given harsh treatment and verbal abuse from Border Patrol agents, they were too afraid to even attempt to explain their fears of return. One family reported to Bookey that Border Patrol agents called them “invaders,” and other families reported the agents told them that if they were afraid to return to their country, they should arm themselves and fight the gangs.

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, The Nightmare Continues: Title 42 Court Order Prolongs Human Rights Abuses, Extends Disorder at U.S. Borders (New York: Human Rights First, June 16, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/nightmare-continues-title-42-court-order-prolongs-human-rights-abuses-extends-disorder-us.

Sector(s): Del Rio, San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit, Honduras

June 15, 2022

The Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times reported on Border Patrol “challenge coins,” available on eBay and elsewhere, depicting with pride the September 2021 Del Rio incident in which mounted agents charged at Haitian migrants on the banks of the Rio Grande.

“Whipping ass since 1924” and “Haitian Invasion,” reads one coin rendering the iconic September 2021 photo of a Border Patrol agent on horseback grabbing a Haitian migrant’s shirt.

These are not official items, and the coins’ tie to active-duty agents remains unclear. “These coins anger me because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.

CBP was investigating the coins’ origin and told the Los Angeles Times that it will send cease-and-desist letters “to vendors who produce unauthorized challenge coins using a CBP trademarked brand.”

Andy Christiansen, a Utah-based vendor, told National Public Radio “that he still has about 20 coins left and intends on putting them up for sale again.” Christiansen said he did not produce the coins: he purchased them as part of a box of coins that was lost or damaged in shipping and put up for auction. Christiansen said that his stock was “flying off the shelf” and that one coin’s auction price rose to $500.

— Michael Wilner, Jacqueline Charles, “Border Patrol Investigating Coin Memorializing Treatment of Haitian Migrants in del Rio” (Miami: The Miami Herald, June 15, 2022) https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article262498842.html.

— Hamed Aleaziz, “Coins Depicting Border Patrol Agent Grabbing Haitian Migrant Trigger Investigation” (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-16/coins-border-patrol-haitian-immigrants.

— Jaclyn Diaz, “Ebay Seller Says Coins Depicting Haitian Migrant Incident at Border May Be Sold Again” (National Public Radio, June 20, 2022) https://www.npr.org/2022/06/17/1105901312/ebay-seller-challenge-coins-border-patrol-horseback-haiti-migrants-mexico.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

Early June, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican husband and wife who turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near Nogales, Arizona. “The agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.”

— “June 9 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 9, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico