4 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Fatal Encounter”

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

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:

April 20, 2022

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Border Patrol has been undercounting the actual number of migrant deaths in the U.S.-Mexico border region. (original link) For instance, Border Patrol in Arizona routinely reports finding roughly half as many remains as the Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants.

Southwest Border: CBP Should Improve Data Collection, Reporting, and Evaluation for the Missing Migrant Program, GAO-22-105053 (Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 20, 2022) https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105053.

— Ryan Devereaux, “The Border Patrol Is Systemically Failing to Count Migrant Deaths” (United States: May 9, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/05/09/border-patrol-migrant-deaths-gao/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: GAO Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

October 28, 2021

Five Border Patrol agents pursued three suspected undocumented migrants through a flat field during pre-dawn hours near Eagle Pass, Texas. The migrants “ran from the field toward some nearby thick brush attempting to evade apprehension,” CBP reported (original link).

Agents caught one migrant, but the other two “ran and fell off a steep cliff that was concealed by the thick brush.” One was critically injured; the other, a citizen of Honduras, died on the scene.

As of October 30, 2021, this incident was being reviewed by the Maverick County, Texas Sheriff’s Office; the Webb County, Texas Medical Examiner’s Office; and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The DHS Office of Inspector General was also notified.

— “One migrant dies; a second critically injured after fall from cliff in Eagle Pass, TX” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, October 30, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/one-migrant-dies-second-critically-injured-after-fall-cliff-eagle.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

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

Victim Classification: Honduras, Single Adult

February 4, 2020

Border Patrol agents apprehended 32-year-old James Paul Markowitz in his vehicle in Brackettville, Texas, “after he was identified as a suspect in an alien smuggling case,” a CBP statement read (original link). While it is unclear whether he was involved in the incident, Markowitz did have small amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine in his car, which he swallowed in an attempt to avoid detection.

During processing at the Brackettville Border Patrol station, Markowitz “began exhibiting signs of distress.” CBP’s notification to Congress stated that an ambulance was called at 6:00 PM. A CBS News records review revealed that “the ambulance wasn’t actually called for until 6:26 PM.” Markowitz died of a drug overdose.

Markowitz’s stepfather has been unable to get more information from CBP about the circumstances of his death.

In a March 3, 2020 letter to DHS, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) and CHC Immigration Task Force Chairwoman Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-California) accused DHS of having “failed to provide further clarity or transparency surrounding the death of a U.S. citizen in CBP custody.” (original link).

— Graham Kates, “Family of U.S. man who died after Border Patrol arrest says government has been tight lipped for a year” (CBS News, February 4, 2021) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/james-markowitz-border-patrol-arrest-government-silence/.

— Rep. Joaquín Castro and Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, “CHC Members Demand Answers Following Death of American Citizen James Paul Markowitz in CBP Custody” (Washington: Congressional Hispanic Caucus, March 3, 2020) https://chc.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/chc-members-demand-answers-following-death-of-american-citizen-james.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Medical Care, Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: U.S. Citizen or Resident