9 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in February 2023

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

Late February, 2023

Reporting on March 2, 2023,  the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, 73 people (16% of new arrivals) reported experiencing abuse by authorities or criminal actors in transit countries, including Mexico. This pattern of abuse illustrates that policies that force asylum seekers to wait or seek protection in transit countries, such as the proposed asylum ban, do not provide people with adequate access to safety.”

Among cases cited:

Wilhelmina [name changed to protect privacy] fled Venezuela after her parents were killed. She left with her 2 children and her cousin, who is a trans woman. In early February, they were all kidnapped in a Mexican border city and Wilhelmina’s cousin was raped by their captors. Wilhemina escaped with her children and they turned themselves into BP. BP took away all their clothing and expelled them back to the same city where they had been kidnapped. She has not heard from her cousin since February 8, 2023.

“March 2 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 2, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, LGBTQ

February 25, 2023

Three migrants and a U.S. citizen died in the pre-dawn hours of February 25 in a crash following a Border Patrol chase in Rio Bravo, near Laredo, Texas.

A Border Patrol agent sought to stop a sedan near the site where a remote camera had detected a suspected group of undocumented migrants. The agent “activated his vehicle’s emergency equipment to conduct a vehicle stop,” according to a CBP release. (Original link) “The sedan slowed but then accelerated, failing to yield to the agent’s emergency equipment.”

The agent gave chase, but “reportedly lost sight of the vehicle,” which then hit a speed bump, lost control, and crashed in front of a residence. The car “was airborne when six people were ejected and the car landed on its roof,” according to Rio Bravo Fire Chief Juan González. Video footage obtained by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility showed the Border Patrol agent arriving at the scene of the collision 24 seconds after it happened.

The driver, a 19-year-old male U.S. citizen, and an unidentified passenger were declared deceased at the scene. A male citizen of Guatemala was declared dead at the Laredo Medical Center. An unidentified passenger was declared dead at Laredo’s Doctors Hospital. Border Report reported that the sedan had a total of six migrants aboard.

CBP’s release noted that the incident was “under investigation by Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.” The DHS Office of Inspector General was notified.

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Four Dead; Multiple Injured after Driver of Suspected Human Smuggling Vehicle Crashes near Rio Bravo, Texas,” March 10, 2023. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/four-dead-multiple-injured-after-driver-suspected-human-smuggling>.

— Sanchez, Sandra. “U.S. Citizen, 3 Migrants Die in Border Patrol Chase, Rio Bravo Fire Chief Says.” BorderReport, February 27, 2023. <https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/u-s-citizen-3-migrants-die-in-border-patrol-chase-rio-bravo-fire-chief-says/>.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

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

February 21, 2023

Media and NGO reporting indicated that CBP began forcing asylum-seeking families to separate at the borderline when only some family members were able to secure appointments, via the “CBP One” smartphone app, at ports of entry. Due to a very limited number of exemptions to the Title 42 expulsions policy, these appointments are scarce, and difficult to obtain for parents and children all together.

In February 2023 CBP officers on the borderline reportedly began more strictly enforcing appointments, refusing entry to family members who had not managed to secure appointments with the app, even as they accompanied spouses or parents with appointments.

The Rio Grande Valley, Texas Monitor reported on the scene at the bridge between Reynosa, Tamaulipas and Hidalgo, Texas:

Over on the Hidalgo bridge connecting with Reynosa, Priscilla Orta, an attorney working with Lawyers for Good Government, was in line last Wednesday waiting to cross back into the U.S.

“Next thing I know, there it is, at the bridge, you’re seeing it — people are being forced to make the decisions, families are fighting, there’s crying, they’re screaming,” Orta said.

Families she spoke with also reported feeling jilted by the sudden enforcement that meant they’d have to make a quick decision.

Orta returned to frantic families in Reynosa the next day with questions that CBP is attempting to address.

“I think what’s happening now is that they are trying to correct the issue,” Orta said. “But it’s a pretty big issue, because there are no slots,” she said, referring to the appointment slots available. “They’re gone sometimes by 8:03 a.m. We have sometimes seen that the spots are gone by 8:01 a.m. And everyone knows it.”

On February 24, 2023, the Los Angeles Times cited a Venezuelan migrant who went through this experience in Matamoros, Tamaulipas:

The 25-year-old from Venezuela eventually secured appointments for himself and his wife, but the slots filled up so quickly that he couldn’t get two more for their children. They weren’t worried though — they had heard about families in similar situations being waved through by border officials.

Instead, he said, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent told them last week that because each member of the family did not have an appointment: “You two can enter, but not your children.”

— Gonzalez, Valerie. “Families Consider Separation to Seek Asylum as They Face Limited Appointments through CBP App.” The Monitor. February 22, 2023. <https://myrgv.com/local-news/2023/02/21/families-consider-separation-to-seek-asylum-as-they-face-limited-appointments-through-cbp-app/>.

— Castillo, Andrea. “Forced to Apply for Asylum on an Overloaded App, Migrants Face Decision to Split up Families or Wait Indefinitely.” Los Angeles Times. February 24, 2023, sec. Politics. <https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-02-24/asylum-seeking-families-consider-separation-shortage-mobile-app-appointments>.

Sector(s): Laredo Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Venezuela

Mid February, 2023

Reporting on February 16, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recounted a case of family separation due to a scarcity in CBP One appointments.

Tomas [name changed to protect privacy] fled the Dominican Republic and after trying many times, was able to get an appointment through CBPOne for himself. However, he was not able to add his children to his appointment and when he and his family arrived at the port of entry, the officials said, “If you’re going to enter, you have to enter alone and leave your kids behind.”

“February 16 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 16, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

Mid February, 2023

Reporting on February 16, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “The application CBPOne continues to impose disparities in access to the asylum process, privileging those with financial resources, higher levels of education and those who happened to get an appointment the first day the process was opened in January and DHS released a larger number of appointments.”

Among cases cited:

Olivia [name changed to protect privacy] fled death threats in Guatemala. After having paid 10,000 quetzales (nearly $1,300 dollars) for the journey, Border Patrol expelled her to Nogales. She is in her 60s and does not know how to use technology; further, the phone she has does not have the capability to download applications. 

“February 16 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 16, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status:

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Mid February, 2023

Reporting on February 16, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “The parole processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans has many eligibility requirements which make it extremely difficult for people who are fleeing their countries to access.”

Among cases cited:

Norma [name changed to protect privacy] fled Venezuela after having participated in marches opposing the government. She had to return to the country to attempt to renew her passport, but the government refused to renew it. She had to cross the Darien Gap and faced numerous abuses in Mexico. After the cartels stopped the bus she was on and forced all the non-Mexican passengers off, they robbed and beat her. She turned herself into the BP but they expelled her back to Mexico. 

“February 16 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 16, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

Mid-February

Reporting on March 2, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recounted a case of family separation resulting from CBP One appointment scarcity.

In mid-February 2023, Jesús [name changed to protect privacy], Rosa [name changed to protect privacy] and their 2 kids approached the port of entry with a CBPOne appointment. The application would only allow the family to list Jesús and Rosa and would not permit them to add their 2 children, ages 4 and 6, to the same appointment. The CBP agent at the Nogales POE said the children could not be admitted because they were not registered, and if Jesús and Rosa wanted to keep their appointment, they would have to cross and leave their children behind. Jesús asked if he and his son could cross together instead, so that Rosa would only have to try to secure an appointment for 2 people, rather than 4 if they all stayed. The official aggressively responded that he could not. As they tried to figure out what to do, CBP officials said if they didn’t vacate the premises they were going to call the Mexican police to remove them. Jesús finally decided he would cross alone, so that he could find a way to support his family, figuring it would be slightly easier for Rosa to secure 3 appointments. After informing the officer of his decision, the officer asked Jesús, “Are you really going to leave your family all alone?” As a result of these obstacles to seeking asylum as a family unit, Jesús and his family decided he would cross alone. 

“March 2 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 2, 2023).

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

February 7, 2023

Reporting on February 16, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recounted a case from February 7, where they “received a group of 20 people from Ecuador, including women and children, who DHS had expelled to Mexico under Title 42, despite the fact that Ecuador is not a country subject to Title 42. Various expelled Ecuadorians showed Kino staff the papers that BP had given them, describing the parole program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicarguans and Venezuelans.”

Among cases cited:

Yliana [name changed to protect privacy] said that the BP agents told them, “I don’t give a **** why you came here- the Ecuadorians go to Mexico” before expelling the group to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

“February 16 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 16, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Ecuador, Female, Single Adult

February 7, 2023

Reporting on February 16, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recounted a case of confiscation of personal belongings, including medication and baby formula before being expelled to Mexico under Title 42.

Jazmin [name changed to protect privacy] said that BP confiscated their belongings and threw away medication, baby formula and diapers. Jazmin and her family were deported without diapers or formula for her youngest son and they had to find people who would give them these items for free, as they did not have any money.

“February 16 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 16, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Disregard of Public Health, Inappropriate Deportation, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status:

Victim Classification: Ecuador, Family Unit, Female