41 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Family Separation”

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

August 16, 2022

“Family members are still being separated under some circumstances” at the border during the Biden administration, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “including if a parent has a criminal history, has health issues, or is being criminally prosecuted.” A DHS report to Congress counted 227 family separations in 2021 (original link).

— Kate Morrissey, Family Separations at the Border Continue Under Biden (San Diego: The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 16, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-08-16/family-separations-at-the-border-continue-under-biden.

Family Unit Actions Report October 1, 2020-September 30, 2021 (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, March 23, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/22_0323_plcy_family_unit_actions_report_fy21_September_0.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

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

May, 2022

A June 16, 2022 report from Human Rights First included examples of three asylum-seeking families separated by CBP personnel at the U.S.-Mexico border during May 2022.

DHS separated a five-year-old Honduran boy from his adult sister and the sister’s children, who were expelled to Mexico under Title 42 in May 2022. The boy’s sister told Human Rights First that he was processed as an unaccompanied minor and is now in an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in South Carolina, while the sister and her children are stranded in danger in Ciudad Acuña unable to seek asylum.

DHS separated a Honduran father from his partner and child, expelling the man to Mexico under Title 42 in May 2022. The man told Human Rights First researchers that his partner and their child were permitted to remain in the United States to continue the asylum process while he is stuck in Ciudad Acuña.

In late May 2022, DHS separated an elderly Colombian woman from her adult daughter and sister and their children after the family sought protection in Laredo, Texas. The woman’s daughter, granddaughter, sister, and niece were released into Laredo to seek asylum. The woman’s sister told Human Rights First that nobody had heard from the woman in the five days since DHS released the family, and she fears her sister was expelled alone to Mexico under Title 42 or enrolled in the Remain in Mexico program.

— 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, Laredo

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Colombia, Family Unit, Female, Honduras

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the days-long separation of a Haitian family in CBP custody, along with allegations of racist language.

An asylum-seeking Haitian family expelled under Title 42 to Haiti and forced to flee again reported in March 2022 that during the expulsion CBP officers separated the parents from their 16-year-old daughter and subjected the girl to racist abuse. The family was detained for days in freezing cold CBP holding cells, with the teenager held separately with other children. She told Human Rights First that during the painful days she was detained away from her parents U.S. officers called her racist names including the N-word.

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): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Family Separation, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Female, Haiti

Late February, 2022

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of an 18-year-old Colombian from the rest of her family at the border.

In late February 2022, DHS separated an 18-year-old Colombian child from her parents and younger sibling when they sought protection together at the border and detained her in the Berks County Residential Center. After nearly a month in detention, an immigration judge set a $4,500 bond for her release, according to her attorney at Aldea PJC.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Colombia, Family Unit

Mid-February 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a family separation in Arizona:

A Honduran father of two fled the country to the United States after being shot in Honduras. He later asked his father to bring his children so the family could be reunited. When the grandfather was crossing the desert with the kids, Border Patrol found the group and apprehended the three. They expelled the grandfather and kept the children in their custody. When the grandfather arrived at KBI, neither he nor the father knew what had happened with the children.

— “February 17 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 17, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

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

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Honduras, Single Adult

Mid-February 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about an unaccompanied minor’s expulsion, and separation from his brother, by Border Patrol agents in Arizona:

One week ago, two unaccompanied minor brothers were apprehended in the desert by Border Patrol. They were taken in for processing and questioned separately. The agents questioning the older brother, who is 17, told him he was lying. They said his birth certificate was fake and threatened him with a 10-year prison sentence if he didn’t say his real age. They eventually expelled him to Nogales and he did not know the whereabouts of his little brother.

“The expulsion of unaccompanied minors has been a recurring issue that we’ve reported throughout 2020 and 2021,” KBI notes. “In almost all of the cases, CBP officers accuse the minors of lying or refuse to accept their documentation proving their age.”

— “February 17 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 17, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Expulsion of Unaccompanied Minor, Family Separation

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

February 14, 2022

The August 16, 2022 San Diego Union-Tribune recounted the story of “Lucy” (real name withheld), a Salvadoran mother who crossed the eastern California border with her children. According to her attorney, Lucy was fleeing death threats.

She claimed that a Border Patrol agent beat her during her apprehension, that she was denied medical attention, and that agents separate her from her 10-year-old daughter.

They were with a group of other migrants resting along a train line in Calipatria — a city about 35 miles north of Calexico — on Feb. 14 when Border Patrol agents found them.

Lucy said she went to wake up her 18-year-old son Anner as the other migrants fled. A Border Patrol agent caught her and began beating her, she said.

“The truth is I thought he was going to kill me because he had hit me so much,” she told the Union-Tribune.

Her children watched in horror and begged another agent to get him to stop, she said, but the other agent said that he couldn’t because of who the agent attacking her was.

Lucy, who is less than 5 feet tall, attempted to free herself from the agent to save herself, she said. Anner threw a couple of rocks near the agent to try to get him to stop.

The agent did stop, and Lucy escaped to where the other agent was standing with her children, she said.

They were taken to a Border Patrol station, and though Lucy was bleeding from the head and lip and already quite bruised, she did not receive medical attention, she said.

She recalled the agents bullying her and laughing at her.

She was placed in a holding area with her daughter, but soon agents came to take Lucy away. It would be more than a month before she even had an idea of where her daughter ended up.

“They didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye,” Lucy said. “They took me out and handcuffed me.”

She was taken to a federal facility in Arizona to wait because she was being charged with assaulting and intimidating the agent that she says attacked her, a felony. Anner was charged with a misdemeanor and held in another facility.

The FBI agent who investigated the incident noted in a court filing that Anner told him that the Border Patrol agent was punching his mother.

In May, the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the judge to dismiss the charges, and the case was dropped.

— Kate Morrissey, “Family Separations at the Border Continue Under Biden” (San Diego: The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 17, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-08-16/family-separations-at-the-border-continue-under-biden.

Sector(s): El Centro

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report discussed examples of CBP’s implementation of “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) involving separation of family members, non-return of belongings, and dangerous returns.

CBP officers are separating some RMX returnees from family members. The Border Project identified approximately 10 RMX returnees who had been separated from spouses or adult children. One man who was returned to Mexico under RMX told the Border Project that he had been separated from his wife, who is six-months pregnant and suffers from epilepsy and asthma. A Venezuelan asylum seeker told Human Rights First that he had been separated from his adult brother and uncle. In addition, CBP is returning individuals without their belongings and dressed in identical clothing that would make them readily identifiable as migrants. Multiple individuals reported to Human Rights First that CBP officers discarded their personal possessions and that they were returned to Ciudad Juárez in December 2021 under RMX without their clothing, shoes, coats, or medication among other personal items – in violation of CBP’s detention standards (original link). As a result, RMX returnees were forced to wear CBP-issued sweatsuits as they were returned to Ciudad Juárez, and on one occasion, Human Rights First researchers also observed RMX returnees wearing CBP-issued flip flops despite temperatures dipping to 40°F that day.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Family Separation, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Disability, Family Unit, Pregnancy, Venezuela

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”

ImmDef’s complaint cites the account of “M.G.G.,” a 17-year-old from El Salvador, who “was separated from her brother and did not hear any information about his whereabouts, health, or safety for over three weeks, until she was finally able to make contact with him from the ORR shelter.… When she asked to call her mom or for any information about her brother, CBP officers denied her requests.”

— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Unaccompanied Child

December, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance recounted the separation of a Haitian family at a port of entry in December 2021.

After being turned back to Mexico by CBP officers on horseback in Del Rio, one Haitian man and his partner attempted to seek asylum at the port of entry at Port Andrade, California in December 2021.[279] His partner was seven months pregnant and experiencing severe health complications. During their processing, the couple asked U.S. officials if they could be kept together. The officials refused and the couple was separated. The man was deeply concerned for his partner’s health and begged the officers for an update on her condition multiple times a day. The officers at the facility repeatedly refused to provide any information. “I felt terrible because after everything we’ve been through together, they refused to give me any information or update on how her health was.”[280]

The couple spent four days in a detention facility in Arizona in separate cells before the pregnant woman was released to their sponsor in New York. U.S. officials told the man that instead of being released alongside his pregnant partner, he would be transferred to a different detention facility. Nine days later, he was transferred from Arizona to Laredo, Texas. On December 12th, he was deported back to Haiti. The separation from his pregnant partner was “emotionally devastating” and they both “cried every single day.” He missed the birth of his child, who has since suffered from health consequences.

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment (United States: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 29, 2022) https://rfkhr.imgix.net/asset/Del-Rio-Report.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[279]: Phone interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual (Mar. 14, 2022).

[280]: Phone interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual (Mar. 14, 2022).

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Pregnancy

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

Between January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The organization’s complaint includes the account of a 16-year-old child who “reports that the child’s cousin with whom the child travelled was held until the cousin’s 18th birthday, at which point the cousin was transferred directly to an adult detention center, separating the child from the only family member with the child.”

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

November, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of an 18-year-old Cuban from the rest of his family at the border.

In November 2021, DHS separated an 18-year-old Cuban teenager from his parents and younger sister when they sought protection together at the border. While the rest of his family was paroled, DHS transferred the child to the Moshannon Valley Processing Center—a new immigration detention center opened by the Biden administration in Pennsylvania—placed him in removal proceedings and jailed him for over two months. ICE only released him in February 2022 after his attorney at Aldea PJC submitted a parole request.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

October 21, 2021

“In the past two months alone,” Human Rights First reported,

DHS has denied parole requests for many vulnerable asylum seekers, including a Honduran lesbian couple who were raped by Mexican police, a Honduran family with a seven-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, a homeless Haitian asylum seeker living with HIV, and Mexican LGBTQ+ asylum seekers who were sexually assaulted and beaten in Mexico. Even when CBP officers at ports of entry have granted urgent requests for humanitarian parole, this has often come only after complaints to DHS headquarters – and officers have still refused to parole accompanying family members, leading to family separations.

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Honduras, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Mexico, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult

September, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a Russian LGBTQ asylum-seeking man and his partner at a California port of entry.

In September 2021, DHS separated an LGBTQ Russian asylum seeker from his partner and detained him for weeks at La Palma Correctional Center in Arizona. After the pair requested protection together at a California port of entry, DHS inexplicably detained the man while granting parole to the man’s partner to continue the asylum process in the United States, according to Immigration Equality.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, LGBTQ, Russia

September, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a man and his teenage brother from the Ivory Coast.

A 20-year-old asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast was separated by DHS from his 16-year-old brother when they sought protection together at the southern border and subsequently deported in September 2021. The 20-year-old brother received a negative credible fear determination after unfairly being forced to undergo a CFI in French, which was not his best or native language. The 16-year-old brother, who has no other family in the United States, was held in ORR custody while his older brother and only caretaker was detained in Mississippi and Louisiana until his deportation, according to a detention visitation program advocate who spoke with both brothers.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Ivory Coast

September 2021

Human Rights First reports:

In September 2021, DHS expelled an asylum-seeking Haitian family to Haiti after holding them for days in a freezing cell without sufficient food. DHS separated the family from an adult brother who had crossed into Del Rio, Texas with them where they had attempted to seek asylum together based on political persecution. The family remains in hiding in Haiti, terrified their persecutors will find them, according to Blaine Bookey from the UC Hastings Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, DHS

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti

Mid-September, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance recounted several examples of family separations during a mass migration event in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021.

Another Haitian asylum seeker traveled to Del Rio with her husband and their three-year-old son.[213] The woman’s husband had adopted the child and they had been living as a family since his birth. After spending five days in the encampment, the husband was separated from his wife and child and was deported back to Haiti. A significant number of Haitian migrants also reported being separated from their spouses. For example, after spending seven days in the encampment, a Haitian woman reported that she was separated from her husband during CBP processing and was unable to contact him.[214] She suspected that he was deported to Haiti.

In addition to the separation of minor children from parents and legal guardians, Haitian and other migrants from the encampment also reported DHS forcibly separating them from the extended family members they were traveling with, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. For example, one Haitian asylum seeker who had been traveling with her twin sister reported that when they were issued tickets and processed by CBP personnel in the encampment, while she was allowed to enter the United States and was taken to the local respite center, her twin was taken into custody and deported back to Haiti—despite the fact that they had virtually identical asylum claims and circumstances.[215] A Haitian woman who was traveling with her husband, infant child, and sister reported that in the Del Rio encampment, her sister was separated from the couple and deported to Haiti.[216] A Venezuelan woman and her three-year-old child were separated from her elderly mother in the Del Rio encampment.[217] The woman was unable to communicate with her mother and had no knowledge of what happened to her.

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment (United States: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 29, 2022) https://rfkhr.imgix.net/asset/Del-Rio-Report.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[213]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 24, 2021).

[214]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 24, 2021).

[215]: In-person interview by HBA case worker with Haitian individual in Del Rio, Texas (Sept. 21, 2021).

[216]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 24, 2021).

[217]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Venezuela individual in Del Rio, Texas (Sept. 22, 2021).

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Venezuela

Mid-September, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a 16-year-old Nicaraguan child from his parents near Eagle Pass, Texas.

In September 2021, DHS separated a 16-year-old Nicaraguan child from his parents when the family sought asylum at the border near Eagle Pass, Texas, and jailed him alone in adult ICE detention facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana for one-and-a-half months. CBP officers ripped up the boy’s birth certificate, interrogated him about his age, threatened to imprison him for 10 years, and forced him to sign a document stating that he was 18. At the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, ICE held the boy in an isolation cell for 18 days. He told Telemundo News: “To spend 24 hours in there, locked up, with the doors locked, without going out. It was terrible. There was no hope of leaving that place.”

Noticias Telemundo described the 16-year-old’s treatment at the hands of the Border Patrol agents who apprehended him.

They doubted that they were a family. The son burst into tears, as he recounts. “They started telling me ‘tell us your real age.’ And for about twenty times I repeated the same thing: 16 years old, 16 years old. They got mad at me and told me that they were going to hold me and my family in prison for ten years, and that they were going to deport me.”

“Angel” says he signed a rudimentary, makeshift piece of paper the agents handed him, on which they only wrote his name and that he was 18 years old. He says he felt intimidated and forced to sign by the two agents’ shouting and threats.

…The mother, Luz Zelaya, says that she, meanwhile, had her son’s birth certificate torn up. It is a printed document stating that the minor was born in a municipality in northern Nicaragua in 2005, issued by local authorities days before his departure at the end of August 2021.

“This is no good’. And ra, ra, he tore it to pieces and put it in the trash. ‘You’re lying to me. I’m not dumb,’ he tells me,” recalls Zelaya, a 29-year-old mother who had her son almost as a child and has been with her current husband, who is not Angel’s biological father, for more than a decade. “We never saw him again.”

The minor was detained for a few days in Border Patrol custody in Texas, along with some 80 adult men, in a room where “you had to stand up, you couldn’t even sleep on your stomach,” as he describes it. From there, he was shackled by his hands, feet and waist to be put on a plane bound for an ICE detention center for single adults, Adams County Detention Center, in Mississippi.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

— Damià Bonmatí, Belisa Morillo, “Aislado en una prisión con solo 16 años: la odisea de un menor que fue separado de sus papás en la frontera” (United States: Noticias Telemundo, December 15, 2021) https://www.telemundo.com/noticias/noticias-telemundo/inmigracion/separacion-bajo-el-gobierno-biden-asi-fue-la-odisea-de-un-menor-de-16-rcna8638.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Confiscation of Documents, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Nicaragua

September 14, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance recounted the separation of a Haitian family in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021.

[O]n September 14th, officers took one Haitian man and his family to a detention facility, where they remained for approximately five days.[211] The man and his sixteen-year-old son were separated from each other and from the rest of the family. When the man tried to see anyone in his family, the guards yelled at him and prevent him from doing so. At one point, an officer screamed at him, “No one told you to come to the U.S.”[212]

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment (United States: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 29, 2022) https://rfkhr.imgix.net/asset/Del-Rio-Report.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[211]: Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, No. 1:21-CV-03317 (D.D.C.) (filed Dec. 20, 2021), https://i com/data/documenttools/hba-v-biden/a8106eacd7c45afe/full.pdf.

[212]: Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, No. 1:21-CV-03317 (D.D.C.) (filed Dec. 20, 2021), https://i com/data/documenttools/hba-v-biden/a8106eacd7c45afe/full.pdf.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti

Mid-August, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A woman from Guatemala who was migrating with her younger sister was expelled to Nogales last week after Border Patrol apprehended the sisters in the desert. Because the younger sister was a minor and her older sister was not her legal guardian, the sisters were separated when they were apprehended. The younger sister was kept in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the older sister was expelled to Nogales. Border Patrol gave her no information whatsoever about what they had done with her younger sister, and she had no idea how to locate her. She was one of three women who came through KBI recently in the same situation.

— “August 19 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 19, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

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

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Guatemala, Single Adult

Early August, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed a Honduran asylum-seeking father’s prolonged separation from his family.

In early August 2021, DHS separated a 21-year-old Honduran asylum seeker from his wife and sick baby, who suffers from hydrocephalus and seizures, and detained the man at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Washington. CBP released the wife and child, who relocated to Virginia to continue their asylum case. The man remained detained one-and-a-half months later, according to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras, Medical Condition

July, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed a Guatemalan asylum-seeking father’s prolonged separation from his family.

In July 2021, DHS separated a Guatemalan asylum seeker from his wife and two young daughters when they tried to request protection together at the U.S. border. The family fled Guatemala after receiving death threats in retaliation for working with the police to enable the arrest of a high-level leader of a powerful gang. According to RAICES, ICE detained the man, who suffers from diabetes, in a Texas detention center, where he nearly fainted because he was not provided with an appropriate diet to meet his medical needs. ICE continued to refuse to release him for months after an immigration judge determined that he has a reasonable fear of persecution.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

July 23, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of a Honduran family while in custody at Border Patrol’s “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) facility under a bridge in Mission, Texas, and their subsequent lateral expulsion via Nogales, Arizona.

A Honduran man, his wife, and daughter entered the United States near McAllen, Texas where they were detained. They were kept under an overpass with hundreds of other migrants. The agents took their temperatures and biometric data.

There was a medical tent, but the family could not get medical attention. Their infant daughter became sick while they were there. Although they asked for medical attention for their baby, the agents refused to provide any.

They were held there for three days. This family was exposed to the elements and went without basic necessities like running water, beds to sleep in, etc. They were only fed twice a day.

Border Patrol would periodically call names to board buses; if you missed your name, you had to wait until next time they came to call your name. Because of this, people chose to remain awake rather than risk missing their chance to leave. The father recalls the brutal sleep deprivation this caused.

After three days the Border Patrol transferred them to a facility. At the facility the agents confiscated all their belongings (clothes, medicine, diapers, phone chargers, etc.). They were not given anything to eat at the facility for the whole day. The father was temporarily separated from his wife and daughter and placed in a separate holding facility with about fifty others, who had been at the facility for some time.

Eventually, the agents took down details of the family members they had in the US and told them they could leave once their family members had paid for their travel. This was a lie. The family was instead taken to the airport and flown to Tucson, AZ and then expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed an August 3, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 6, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

KBI and NETWORK recorded a similar account, for July 30, 2021, of a Honduran family that spent three days at TOPS before being laterally expelled via Nogales.

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s experience with her family while in Border Patrol custody in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman, her sister (19), brother, and son entered the United States and were all detained by border patrol. At that time the agent was very nice to them and gave them water and took them to a Border Patrol station. They were subsequently moved to Tucson.

There, CBP processed the sister first, and a female CBP agent reached into her sister’s shirt and grabbed sister’s documents from her bra.

Her brother was separated from them, and she did not have any information about his whereabouts as of July 10. She was never told why they separated her brother from her.

She was also then separated from her sister, who CBP says tried to escape them while they were walking in the desert. The woman told agents several times that her sister had not tried to escape apprehension and that they had been together the whole time.

The officers told her “You are not in your country. We are in charge here.” In the facility, the staff at the station refused to give them blankets. In the early morning, she was reunited with her sister on a bus.

She tried several times to tell them she was seeking asylum, but no one listened. CBP kept telling them that this was their country, and they were in charge. The woman, her sister, and son were expelled to Nogales, Sonora in the early morning.

KBI filed a July 23, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 5, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, August 2021. <https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Sexual Assault or Harassment

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala