16 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in July 2022

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

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported the consequences of Border Patrol taking a migrant’s mobile phone away from him in custody, and deporting him without it.

BP confiscated Jose’s* [name changed for privacy reasons] phone when they detained him and did not return it when they deported him to Nogales, Mexico. Since he did not have any family phone number memorized, when he arrived in Nogales, Jose had no way of contacting his family to let them know he is okay or to ask that they send money so he can return home. Although staff at Kino spent about a half hour helping José look on Facebook to try to find a family member, they could not find anyone, leaving Jose stranded in Nogales without the ability to contact family members.

Although KBI collaborates with local organizations and consulates to assist expelled individuals recover their personal belongings, when migrants’ phones are confiscated and not returned to them, it prevents Kino and other border organizations from following up with them and can prevent migrants themselves from looking up contact info for relatives or neighbors to whom their belongings can be sent.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported the case of a migrant who had precious belongings taken from him in Border Patrol custody:

BP [Border Patrol] took Miguel’s* [name changed for privacy reasons] clothes, underwear, Mexican ID, phone, Bible and rosary. His phone contained all his family members’ phone numbers, as well as family photos. Upon deportation, he wasn’t able to contact his family until he borrowed someone else’s phone to search for them on Facebook. Though he was eventually able to make contact, he will never get his family photos back. He commented to KBI staff that although a rosary may not be of much value to some people, his faith sustained him during the journey.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported a significant case of non-return of migrants’ valuable belongings:

Last weekend, ICE deported a group of 12 migrants to Nogales after being detained. Every person reported that upon their encounter with BP, agents took away all their belongings and said they would return them upon arriving in Tucson, which never happened. When they arrived in Nogales, their belongings still had not been returned. Items confiscated included money (one individual lost $200 USD), wallets, phones, and jewelry with sentimental value. One person from the group shared that he witnessed a Border Patrol agent take $3,000 pesos [about US$150] from another migrant and rip it up in his face saying, “This is trash, this is of no value to you here,” before throwing the ripped bills in the trash can.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

Late July, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on August 4 that “Walter [name changed to protect privacy], a gay man from El Salvador, recently arrived at Kino after surviving an attempted murder in his country.”

On his journey, the coyote abandoned him in the desert, where he wandered alone until he was able to find BP and present himself to seek asylum. Despite explaining his situation, showing the scars from the murder attempt and explaining that he would be killed if he had to return to El Salvador, BP [Border Patrol] expelled him to Mexico.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: El Salvador, LGBTQ, Single Adult

July 28, 2022

The Dallas Morning News reported that Border Patrol agents appeared to be fabricating information on asylum seekers’ entry paperwork. It cited an egregious case, in the Rio Grande Valley sector, of a two-year-old toddler whose form read that he told agents he intended to travel to Dallas “to seek employment” and did not fear being returned to El Salvador.

Falsifying information on intake forms can mean swift deportation for protection-seeking migrants subject to the expedited removal process. “Immigration attorneys say instances like this aren’t uncommon and are part of a wave of expedited removals,” the Morning News reported.

— Dianne Solis, “Border agents deny entry to migrants based on interviews lawyers say are fiction” (Dallas: Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2022) https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2022/07/28/border-agents-deny-entry-to-migrants-based-on-interviews-lawyers-say-are-fiction/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Falsification of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, El Salvador

July 27, 2022

A letter from the ACLU of New Mexico and ACLU of Texas called for an investigation of a July 27 vehicle crash in Santa Teresa, New Mexico that killed two Mexican citizens and injured nine others. While Border Patrol was pursuing the vehicle before it crashed in the pre-dawn hours of the 27th, the agency reported that it had discontinued its chase, and that the driver lost control, flipping the vehicle.

Two Mexican citizen brothers, who were allegedly seeking to smuggle eleven migrants, face federal and state charges as a result of the incident; one said that the criminal organization that hired him had ordered him “not to stop if law enforcement attempted to pull him over.”

Border Patrol agents stand accused of a pattern of engaging in dangerous vehicle pursuits, at times in populated areas, with increasingly frequent fatalities. “There have already been 17 deaths this year due to Border Patrol vehicle pursuits, while there were 23 last year – an 11-fold increase since 2019,” the ACLU letter noted, urging CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus not to allow agents to employ Title 42 to expel any of the “victim-witnesses.”

— Rebecca Sheff, Shaw Drake, “Border Patrol’s Deadly Vehicle Pursuit on July 27, 2022 in Santa Teresa, NM” (New Mexico, Texas, ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of Texas, July 27, 2022) https://www.aclu-nm.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/2022.07.27_aclu_letter_to_cbp_re_santa_teresa_vehicle_pursuit.pdf.

— Cindy Ramirez, “ACLU again questions Border Patrol pursuits, investigations after rollover leaves 2 dead” (El Paso: El Paso Matters, July 29, 2022) https://elpasomatters.org/2022/07/29/two-dead-in-santa-teresa-new-mexico-rollover-crash-after-border-patrol-pursuit/.

— Julian Resendiz, “Cartel to driver in fatal crash: Don’t stop for Border Patrol” (El Paso: Border Report, August 2, 2022) https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/cartel-to-driver-in-fatal-crash-dont-stop-for-border-patrol/.

— “Two die in vehicle accident transporting undocumented migrants in New Mexico” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, August 6, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/two-die-vehicle-accident-transporting-undocumented-migrants-new.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

July 26, 2022

A U.S. District judge sentenced former CBP officer Simon Medina to 24 months in federal prison (original link). Medina admitted that, while serving at the Laredo, Texas port of entry,

between May 25 and Aug. 6, 2020, he allowed several individuals to enter the United States with contraband in their vehicles on approximately 20 occasions. Although not assigned to the entry lanes at the Laredo Port of Entry, Medina would open a lane and allow his co-conspirators to pass through without inspecting their cargo. Medina also accepted gratuities from his partners.

Medina had pleaded guilty on March 8, 2022. CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility carried out the initial investigation of his case.

— “Former law enforcement officer heads to prison for allowing contraband into country” (Texas: U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas, July 26, 2022) https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/former-law-enforcement-officer-heads-prison-allowing-contraband-country.

Sector(s): Laredo Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Corruption

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Conviction, OPR Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

July 26, 2022

A Border Patrol vehicle pursuit ended in a crash, with no fatalities, in Chula Vista, southeast of San Diego, when agents deployed a spike strip, popping a vehicle’s tires and causing its driver to veer off the road.

“The driver and front passenger were both male U.S. citizens under 18 years old,” the *San Diego Union-Tribune* reported. “The other five occupants, four men and one woman, were adult Mexican citizens who were in the U.S. illegally, authorities said.”

— Angelina Hicks, “Border Patrol pursuit of suspected human smugglers ends in crash in Chula Vista” (San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, July 27, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/story/2022-07-27/border-patrol-pursuit-of-suspected-human-smugglers-ends-in-crash-in-chula-vista.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

July 25, 2022

Reuters and the Washington Examiner reported that CBP counted 151 “CBP-related” deaths during the 2021 fiscal year. The term refers to deaths in CBP custody, at a port of entry or checkpoint, or while trying to elude CBP personnel.

— Mica Rosenberg, Kristina Cooke, Daniel Trotta, “The Border’s Toll” (United States: Reuters, July 25, 2022) https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-immigration-border-deaths/.

— Anna Giaritelli, “Migrant deaths at southern border soar to new high under Biden” (Washington: Washington Examiner, July 25, 2022) https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/migrant-deaths-at-southern-border-soar-to-new-high-under-biden.

Notification and Review Procedures for Certain Deaths and Deaths in Custody (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, September 22, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/document/guidance/notification-review-procedures-for-certain-deaths-and-deaths-in-custody.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

Mid-July, 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) reported the case of a Guatemalan mother and children expelled to Mexico without a chance to seek protection in the United States.

After fleeing Guatemala, Belinda [name changed to protect privacy] and her 3 children asked CBP for access to the asylum process. The agents responded that they would be able to stay in the US and reunite with their family there, but instead, boarded them on a bus to deport them to Mexico. After arriving at the INM (National Migration Institute of Mexico), Belinda begged the officials not to deport her to Guatemala where she would face danger. The migration officer sent 45 people to Hermosillo to begin their deportation, but allowed Belinda to stay, a chance use of discretion that allowed Belinda to narrowly escape a return to danger.

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

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

Last Known Accountability Status:

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

Mid-July, 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) reported the case of a Guatemalan family that was separated in Border Patrol custody after being denied a chance to ask for asylum:

Maribel [name changed to protect privacy], her husband and their 6-month-old baby fled Guatemala and presented themselves to Border Patrol near Sasabe, AZ to request asylum. The BP agent told them they would have a chance to ask for asylum later, but they were never given an opportunity to explain their situation. Instead, they were transported to Tucson, where they separated Maribel and her child from her husband, putting them in different buses to expel them to Mexico. The men’s bus arrived in Nogales first, and the non-Mexicans were detained by Mexico’s INM, to be transferred to their immigration station in Hermosillo. When Maribel arrived, she was told they could not transport her to Hermosillo, as her baby was sick. Maribel has not heard from her husband since.  Maribel’s expulsion under Title 42 led to family separation by Mexican authorities, putting her in a more vulnerable situation and creating repeated human rights violations.

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

Mid-July, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recorded that 10 expelled or deported “migrants reported the theft of their personal belongings while in CBP and ICE custody. Migrants who arrived at Kino after having been detained by CBP or ICE reported that these agencies robbed them of money, cell phones, and national IDs, without which, they will face challenges in finding work, accessing health care, and other services in Mexico.”

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

Mid-July, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on severe brutality that a Mexican man allegedly suffered at the hands of a Border Patrol agent:

Benjamín [Name changed to protect privacy] had been in the desert for 8 days when BP encountered him at 4 in the morning. He did not run, but the agent handcuffed him. When Benjamín asked for a drink of water, the BP agent threw him face down onto the ground, began kicking him and stood on the back of his head, which was pushed into a rock until his head was cut open and bleeding. The agent yelled, “If you want water, go get it in your own country! You only come here to f*ck around!” Benjamín eventually lost consciousness. When he came to, another agent sent his search dog to lick the blood from his face. BP took Benjamín to the hospital, only after he asked repeatedly for medical attention. BP then deported him to Mexico without any of his medical paperwork, which Benjamín reports an agent hid in his shirt. Upon arriving at Kino, he shared: “I’m trying to escape death in my country, only to nearly die here [in the US].”

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

July 18, 2022

Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) show that CBP was among DHS agencies that purchased large amounts of location data from a contractor that harvested it from hundreds of millions of mobile phones across the United States. “In just three days in 2018, the documents show that the CBP collected data from more than 113,000 locations from phones in the Southwestern United States—equivalent to more than 26 data points per minute—without obtaining a warrant,” Politico reported. “By searching through this massive trove of location information at their whim, government investigators can identify and track specific individuals or everyone in a particular area, learning details of our private activities and associations,” the ACLU warned.

— Shreya Tewari, Fikayo Walter-Johnson, “New Records Detail DHS Purchase and Use of Vast Quantities of Cell Phone Location Data” (United States: American Civil Liberties Union, July 18, 2022) https://www.aclu.org/news/privacy-technology/new-records-detail-dhs-purchase-and-use-of-vast-quantities-of-cell-phone-location-data.

— Alfred Ng, “Homeland Security records show ‘shocking’ use of phone data, ACLU says” (Washington: Politico, July 18, 2022) https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/18/dhs-location-data-aclu-00046208.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Civil Liberties or Privacy Infringement

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

July 11, 2022

At least one Border Patrol agent was involved in a mid-day shooting in Calexico, California. According to the Calexico Chronicle, “at least one Border Patrol agent appeared to engage a silver-colored minivan in the westbound lanes of 98 apparently firing about six or more shots into the driver’s side front and side windows as the vehicle was wedged against a tractor-trailer rig. Among the myriad cellphone photos and video circulating social media of the scene, one of the most dramatic shows an agent with his gun drawn and the bullet hole-riddled vehicle.”

One person was injured and airlifted to a distant hospital.

A CBP spokesperson said that the vehicle had failed to yield, but then stopped at an intersection. “Shortly thereafter, the Border Patrol agent broadcasted ‘shots fired’ via his agency radio. All available agents responded to assist and remained on scene until it was determined safe and no threat to the community.”

As of mid-July, the details remain unclear. CBP stated that investigative personnel present at the scene came from the Calexico Police Department, the FBI, the DHS Inspector General, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility

— Richard Montenegro Brown and Julio Morales, “Border Patrol Mum on Details of Calexico Shooting” (Calexico: Calexico Chronicle, July 11, 2022) https://calexicochronicle.com/2022/07/11/border-patrol-shooting-at-highways-111-and-98/.

Sector(s): El Centro

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

July 7, 2022

On July 14, the Intercept reported on a July 7 CBP briefing memo prepared ahead of a leadership meeting with the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG). It advises non-cooperation with the oversight agency, instructing

on how to push back against what it calls the inspector general’s ‘persistent’ request for ‘direct, unfettered access to CBP systems,’ as part of its ‘high number of OIG audits covering a variety of CBP program areas.’ In a section titled ‘Watch Out For/ If Asked,’ the memo describes a number of exemptions Customs and Border Protection can rely on to evade records requests from the inspector general’s office—including national security exemptions.

Ken Klippenstein, “Secret Service Deleted Jan. 6 Text Messages After Oversight Officials Requested Them” (United States: The Intercept, July 14, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/07/14/jan-6-texts-deleted-secret-service/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: