7 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in April 2023

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

Late April, 2023

Reporting on April 27, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated that, “Multiple expelled asylum seekers detained near El Paso and expelled to Nogales reported that BP confiscated original identification documents and essential medication.”

Among cases cited:

– BP officers threw away Ramon’s [name changed to protect privacy] belongings, including his diabetes medication. 

– BP agents verbally abused Jaime [name changed to protect privacy], saying that Venezuelans have no right to be in the US and that the problems in Venezuela are not their problem. A BP agent confiscated his cellphone, earbuds, money, and Venezuelan ID. He took the ID and cut it in half with scissors in front of Jaime.

– BP agents confiscated all of Paulina’s [name changed to protect privacy] personal property. When BP was transporting them to Nogales for expulsion, they began calling names to return property. They never called Paulina’s name and she told them she needed her Venezuelan ID back. The agents separated her and 3 others who were asking for their IDs back and threatened them, saying “you’re going to jail for making false accusations against an agent.” The agent continued: “I’m going to strip search and send you to jail.” They transported Paulina and the 3 others back to Tucson, where luckily, BP still had their IDs.

“April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): El Paso, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Late April, 2023

Reporting on April 27, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Similar to reports Kino documented from people who were laterally expelled to Nogales, MX in 2021, expelled asylum seekers reported many common abuses, such as Border Patrol agents throwing away all their clothing, handcuffing them at the feet, waist and hands for hours at a time, denying basic hygiene items and access to showers for up to a week, and misleading them to believe they were going to see an immigration judge, only to be expelled through another part of the border.”

Among cases cited:

– Briseida [name changed to protect privacy] turned herself in to BP. She was detained for 5 days. She asked to be able to shower because she was menstruating, but the BP agent did not allow her to shower. She also requested sanitary pads, which they never provided to her.

– After turning himself in to BP, Jair [name changed to protect privacy] was detained for 10 days. He was only allowed to shower 1 time and he was never allowed to brush his teeth.

– Olivia [name changed to protect privacy] was detained for 5 days, during which she was allowed to shower only 1 time. She only had the clothes she was wearing when she arrived, as they took away all her other clothing. They confiscated the underwear she was wearing and gave her a pair of underwear that was too small. She had to rip them to be able to wear them. She was never allowed to make a phone call while she was detained, not even to let her family members know she was alive. BP put her on a plane and she could not eat or drink anything on the plane because she was chained at the hands, waist and feet the entire time.

— “April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard of Public Health, Gender-Based Harm or Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

Late April, 2023

Reporting on April 27, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated:

“After false reports circulated on social media and Breitbart News that the US government was no longer expelling Venezuelan nationals to Mexico under Title 42, approximately 1500 asylum seekers turned themselves in to Border Patrol in El Paso, TX to seek protection in the US. Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received 170 Venezuelan nationals flown from El Paso, many of whom were separated from their family members in the process. KBI is aware of 7 couples that were able to reunite in our center. In at least 4 cases, asylum seekers expelled to Nogales had to wait for 7 days to hear from their significant others, who were expelled in places such as Matamoros, Tijuana, and Mexicali.”

Among cases cited:

– Johnny [name changed to protect privacy] left the Venezuelan military after serving for 10 years. He commented on years of having to repress people’s rights: “I had to silence my people’s protests, but I could no longer silence my conscience.” He fled to Peru, where Venezuelan military officers came to search for him, and then to Chile, where they pursued him again. Johnny, his brother and his nephew turned themselves in to Border Patrol in El Paso. The agents refused to listen to Johnny’s asylum case and expelled him, while they processed his brother and nephew into the US.

– Upon turning himself in to Border Patrol, Emanuel [name changed to protect privacy] and his wife were separated. CBP expelled Emanuel in Tijuana and his wife in Nogales. Nearly 500 miles away from his wife and without any money to pay for the $2,800 MX ($154 USD) journey to Nogales, Emanuel rode on top of a cargo train to reunite with his wife. While on the train, he witnessed the kidnapping of another man by a prominent cartel.

– Paulina [name changed to protect privacy] turned herself in to Border Patrol along with her aunt, uncle and cousins. CBP separated Paulina and her aunt from the rest of their family and expelled the 2 of them to Nogales. Paulina’s cousin suffers from a chronic illness and upon turning themselves in, CBP transported him to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. They heard from him because he was allowed to keep his phone while in the hospital, but they are very worried for his health because he was diagnosed with pneumonia and they are going to put him on dialysis. They still do not know where her uncle is.

— “April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): El Paso, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Single Adult, Venezuela

April, 2023

In early April, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Border Patrol agents had been keeping migrants out in the open, in the area between two layers of border wall, for days.

The agency was using the space as an open-air holding cell for extended periods of time since at least October of 2022, as media reports from Tijuana’s El Imparcial documented. The initial Union-Tribune investigation reported roughly 150 people held between the walls for up to 5 days, with agents providing them nothing to eat and very little water.

In the days leading up to the May 11, 2023 end of the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, the area became a focus of media attention, as reports indicated about 1,000 migrants “stuck” between the wall layers for days before Border Patrol would process them, in the meantime relying on volunteers on the other side of the fence for basic needs.

The initial San Diego Union Tribune reports described the scene:

When a gate opened in the wall further into the United States, many of the migrants tried to walk or run out of the area. Border Patrol agents on ATVs and in cars quickly appeared and directed the group back inside the enclosure. That indicated that the migrants were not free to leave and thus in custody of the agents.

The group told the Union-Tribune that they’d been instructed to wait there to be processed by agents. The more than a dozen people interviewed by the Union-Tribune said they had crossed into the United States to seek asylum.

On May 13, the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) filed a complaint with DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties alleging that CBP “is detaining migrants in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions in an open-air corridor in California.” The complaint added, “CBP agents have only given migrants one small bottle of water a day and one granola bar, far from adequate to endure, leading migrants to eat leaves to survive.” SBCC noted that “CBP has provided only one port-a-potty for hundreds of people, which filled up weeks ago and is unusable.” A vast majority of migrants agreed with the statement, “If I did not receive food and water from volunteers, I would not get enough food and water from Border Patrol to survive.”

People from at least 15 countries, including more than a few children, spent as many as 7 days, according to SBCC, out in the open air between the wall layers, fashioning shelters from bits of plastic. Some used their mobile phones—charged with the help of volunteers on the other side of the fence—to order food deliveries from Tijuana restaurants.

Several members of Congress wrote to CBP voicing strong concern, including a May 5th letter. (original link) The agency responded in early July:

The individuals in question had not made contact with U.S. Border Patrol personnel and were not constrained from further movement…At the time of this incident, the USBP San Diego Sector facilities were experiencing capacity issues and some transportation challenges which have since been remediated. Border Patrol Agents encountered and apprehended the migrants as soon as it was operationally feasible to do so.

Representative Robert Garcia (D-California) responded:

To say that it’s not happening or that they’re not aware of the incident I think is not acceptable…There are human beings here who need help and assistance. This idea that they can’t fess up to something that’s really an issue and really happening is very concerning. I hope that the department isn’t lying to us in Congress with these claims.

Rep. Garcia affirmed he was moving to launch an investigation through his work on the Homeland Security Committee.

Over the weekend of May 13-14, CBP started to empty out two San Diego encampments, processing migrants 30 to 50 at a time.

In September 2023, as migration began increasing again to levels last seen in April, Border Patrol began to hold migrants in between the border wall layers again. Border Patrol was sending around 50 migrants at a time on buses to be processed, which was “a faster circulation of people than what we saw back in May,” Pedro Rios of AFSC told San Diego’s local CBS affiliate.

September reports indicate that the wait for processing was 24 to 36 hours. Border Patrol agents were handing out water bottles, cheese, and crackers. Volunteers provided all other supplies, from blankets to diapers to phone charging equipment, through the slats of the border wall.

As of late September 2023, migrants continued to await processing out in the open in an encampment between layers of the double border wall between San Diego and Tijuana. “An official familiar with the situation” told the Los Angeles Times, in a story published on September 16, “that the number of people between the walls is growing faster than agents can move them out.”

— Cuéllar, Mireya. “Trasladan a Los Retenidos Entre Los Dos Muros de La Línea Tijuana-San Diego.” La Jornada, May 15, 2023. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/05/15/politica/004n1pol.

— Garcia, Robert, Juan Vargas, and Delia C. Ramirez. “Letter to Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz,” May 5, 2023. https://ramirez.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/ramirez.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/2023-05-05_letter-border-outdoor-detention-.pdf.

— Hernandez, David. “Open-Air Holding Areas at the Border Cleared as Processing of Migrants Ramps Up.” The San Diego Union Tribune, May 14, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2023-05-14/open-air-holding-areas-at-the-border-cleared-as-processing-of-migrants-ramps-up.

— Karlamangla, Soumya. “Visiting the Migrant Camp at the San Diego-Tijuana Border.” The New York Times, May 15, 2023, sec. U.S. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/15/us/migrants-title-42-san-diego-tijuana.html.

— Morrissey, Kate. “Border Patrol Leaves Migrants Stranded in San Diego as Shelters Reach Capacity.” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2023. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-09-16/border-patrol-leaves-migrants-stranded-in-san-diego-as-shelters-reach-capacity.

— Morrissey, Kate. “In Letter to Congressmembers, CBP Denies Holding Migrants in Custody between Border Fences in San Diego.” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 12, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2023-07-12/letter-congressmembers-cbp-migrants-between-border-fences-san-diego.

— Morrissey, Kate. “Migrants Say Border Patrol Is Keeping Them between the Border Walls for Days without Food or Shelter.” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 13, 2023. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2023-04-13/migrants-say-border-patrol-is-keeping-them-between-the-border-walls-for-days-without-food-or-shelter.

— Reyes, Khennia. “Cumplen migrantes tres días detenidos en el muro de Estados Unidos.” Noticias de Tijuana | EL IMPARCIAL, October 17, 2022. https://www.elimparcial.com/tijuana/tijuana/Cumplen-migrantes-tres-dias-detenidos-en-el-muro-de-Estados-Unidos-20221016-0023.html.

— Southern Border Communities Coalition. “BREAKING: Border Advocates File Complaint Alleging CBP Has Violated Custody Standards, Putting Lives at Risk in the California Corridor Between Border Walls,” May 13, 2023. https://www.southernborder.org/border_advocates_file_complaint_alleging_cbp_has_violated_custody_standards_putting_lives_at_risk_in_the_california_corridor_between_border_walls.

— Southern Border Communities Coalition. “BREAKING: Migrants in CBP Custody Speak About Their Conditions in Open-Air Detention Sites in California in a New Report by U.S. Immigration Policy Center,” May 15, 2023. https://www.southernborder.org/migrants_in_cbp_custody_speak_about_their_conditions_in_open_air_detention_sites_in_california_in_a_new_report_by_us_immigration_policy_center.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees

Victim Classification:

Mid-April 2023

Reporting on April 27th, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received reports that BP expelled 21 asylum seekers at night, at 8 pm or later, including as late as 2 am. Thirteen people reported they had to sleep outside on the street because they were deported too late to find a shelter.”

Among cases cited:

– BP expelled Yadir [name changed to protect privacy] to Nogales at 9 pm along with about 40 others. They all had to sleep outside in the plaza.

– BP expelled Osman [name changed to protect privacy] to Nogales at 9:30 pm. He had to sleep on the street and he was very cold because BP had thrown away all of his clothing, leaving him with only what he had on his back.

– BP expelled German [name changed to protect privacy] to Nogales at 9 pm. Mexican Immigration agents told him he could sleep on the sidewalk outside the Mexican immigration office.

— “April 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 27, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

April 8, 2023

An analysis from the American Immigration Council’s Dara Lind recounted the case of a father who was killed in front of his children in Tijuana, several weeks after being turned away at the port of entry. This case is one of several testimonies collected by the American Immigration Council, as part of a lawsuit challenging CBP’s continued turnbacks of asylum seekers at ports of entry.

On April 8, the Mexican family came to the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana and asked to be let into the United States to seek asylum, as they were fleeing immediate cartel violence in Mexico. The father had been shot and his arm was bleeding. According to the mother, their family begged the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to let them through the gates.

“We showed CBP officers my husband’s bleeding wound and explained the immediate danger we were in,” [the wife] testifie[d]. The officers refused. They told the family that since they didn’t have an appointment for the day via the CBP One app, they had no right to flee the cartel.

The family finally got a CBP One appointment in July 2023, but they had to exclude the father, since on May 1, while the family headed to the Tijuana airport in an attempt to flee to Canada, they were attacked again, resulting in a shooting that killed the father of the family. He died in front of his wife, their 5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

— Lind, Dara. “CBP’s Continued ‘Turnbacks’ Are Sending Asylum Seekers Back to Lethal Danger.” Immigration Impact (blog), August 10, 2023. https://immigrationimpact.com/2023/08/10/cbp-turnback-policy-lawsuit-danger/.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

Early April 2023

On April 2nd, 2023, Customs and Border Patrol Agents (CBP) fatally shot Joel Inbody, a 32-year-old man from West Seneca, New Mexico. Around 8:37pm, a Border Patrol agent began following Inbody’s white Nissan Rogue after it failed to completely stop at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint located on Interstate 10. 

After agents began following Inbody, they deployed a spike strip that popped his vehicle’s tires and Inbody exited his car and began walking away on foot. In the video released by CBP, agents attempted to persuade Inbody to release the wooden stick he was carrying and order him to the ground. 

As Inbody continued to walk and ignore their requests, agents deployed their electric tasers in an attempt to subdue him. These attempts failed. After Inbody swung his stick at approaching agents, agents fired. CBP’s official report lists that agents fired at least 16 rounds, and Inbody was officially declared deceased at 5:16 am on April 3rd. 
According to Joel Inbody’s mother, Kim Lewis, Inbody suffers from bipolar disorder and PTSD. She suspects that he had mental health issues during his encounter with border agents, and questions why agents failed to recognize this. Now Lewis, along with her attorney Tom Casey, believes agents could have handled the incident differently and are waiting for answers from CBP as they continue their investigation.

Moretti, Luke, and Daniel Telvock. “West Seneca Man Fatally Shot by Border Agents in New Mexico Desert | Part 1.” News 4 Buffalo, September 25, 2023. https://www.wivb.com/news/investigates/west-seneca-man-fatally-shot-by-border-agents-in-new-mexico-desert-part-1/.
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. “Use of Force Incident, Las Cruces, New Mexico. April 2, 2023,” May 2, 2023. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/881873/use-force-incident-las-cruces-new-mexico-april-2-2023.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “CBP Releases Body-Worn Camera Footage from Agent-Involved Shooting | U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” May 2, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-releases-body-worn-camera-footage-agent-involved-shooting.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Agents Fire Service Weapons on Non-Compliant Man after He Strikes Agent with Wooden Club; Man Dies at Scene,” April 8, 2023. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/agents-fire-service-weapons-non-compliant-man-after-he-strikes.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: Medical Condition, Single Adult