59 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Non-Return of Belongings”

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

June 28, 2023

El Paso-based Border Patrol agent Fernando Castillo allegedly offered a migrant woman “papers” and the ability to stay in the United States in exchange for a $5,000 bribe, and stole $500 from her bag, according to court documents. (Original link)

The migrant woman reported the incident, eventually leading to Castillo being indicted by a grand jury on three counts of wire fraud, bribery by a public official and migrant smuggling following his arrest on June 28, according to federal court records.

— Ameer, Sana. “Report: Border Officer Asked for $5K Bribe to Let Migrant Stay in US.” Laredo Morning Times, August 2, 2023. https://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/border-patrol-agent-bribe-18275015.php.

— “Border Patrol Agent Charged with Bribery, Allegedly Offered Immigration Benefits to Migran.” KOMO, July 28, 2023. https://komonews.com/news/nation-world/border-patrol-agent-accused-of-offering-migrant-immigration-papers-for-5k-fernando-castillo-el-paso-texas-us-mexico-border-immigration.

— “Castillo Criminal Complaint.” U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, June 28, 2023. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FtH87RvUPwZLM4Kg5koKrwR8djWql0KM/view.

— Resendiz, Julian. “Border Agent Allegedly Offered Woman ‘Papers’ for $5,000.” BorderReport, July 27, 2023. https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/border-agent-allegedly-offered-woman-papers-for-5000/.

— Weisfeldt, Sara, and Rosa Flores. “US Border Patrol Agent Indicted on Bribery and Smuggling Charges for Allegedly Offering Migrant Immigration ‘papers’ for $5,000.” CNN, August 1, 2023. https://www.cnn.com/2023/08/01/us/us-border-patrol-agent-bribery-charge-migrant-papers/index.html.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, Under Judicial Review

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

Mid-May, 2023

Reporting on May 25, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Organized crime and authorities in Mexico and the U.S. strip asylum seekers of their resources on the journey, exacerbating their suffering.”

Among cases cited:

– Admiel [name changed to protect privacy] faced extortion many times after fleeing Venezuela. In Guatemala, the police demanded 600 quetzales ($77 USD). In Mexico City, Mexican immigration agents took 3,200 pesos ($179 USD). After he had turned himself in to US authorities a few weeks ago, Border Patrol took all his clothing and personal hygiene items. 

– After Leonardo [name changed to protect privacy] tried to enter the US, Border Patrol apprehended him and did not return his belongings. In addition to his clothing and cellphone, they took 7,300 pesos ($408 US).

— “May 25 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 25, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela

Early May, 2023

Reporting on May 11, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), stated “CBP consistently perpetuates abuses, including throwing away migrants’ religious items and personal belongings and separating families.”

Among cases cited:

Armando [name changed to protect privacy] turned himself into the Border Patrol, where agents took his shoes, wallet with $55 USD and 200 Mexican pesos and his Bible. An agent threw away the Bible that had sustained him in his journey from Venezuela in the trash can in front of him.

— “May 11 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 11, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela

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

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

Late December, 2022

Reporting on January 5, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Kino continues to receive many reports of abuse by Border Patrol and ICE. Over the past 3 weeks, Kino received… 31 reports of belonging confiscation and non-return (25 reports perpetrated by BP and 6 by ICE).”

When Ricardo [name changed to protect privacy] was apprehended, the Border Patrol agents threw away all his clothes and the 2 folders of documents and photos he was going to use in his asylum case.

— “January 5th Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 5, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Early December 2022

Reporting on December 15, 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received 11 reports of Border Patrol (BP) confiscating personal belongings and never returning them. These reports include 3 deported people who explained that BP took thousands of Mexican pesos from them (1,000 pesos = $50 USD), leaving them unable to pay for transportation or basic necessities.”

Among cases cited:

Upon Fernando’s [name changed to protect privacy] apprehension, BP agents took most of his clothes, his phone, wallet and 4,400 Mexican pesos ($221 USD). They transferred him to US Marshals custody, where agents took the rest of his clothes and his Mexican ID and put them in a bag. After his court hearing, he heard agents saying he was to be deported the next day, but he tested positive for COVID and went to isolation for 9 days.

Afterwards, he was held under custody for 13 more days because BP said he had requested asylum, even though he had not. When he had an interview with an asylum officer, Fernando explained he had not requested asylum and wanted to be deported as soon as possible. The officer responded: “If you keep saying that and don’t calm down, you’re going to stay here even longer.” ICE officials then asked Fernando to sign a document saying he had received the $175.65 he had earned by working in detention, but they never gave him the money.

On December 7th, he was deported with none of his belongings, nor the money he had earned. He shared: “I had worked sometimes a shift of 12 hours to earn every $2 of that money.”

— “December 15 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, December 15, 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

Early December 2022

Reporting on December 15, 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received 11 reports of Border Patrol (BP) confiscating personal belongings and never returning them. These reports include 3 deported people who explained that BP took thousands of Mexican pesos from them (1,000 pesos = $50 USD), leaving them unable to pay for transportation or basic necessities.”

Among cases cited:

BP deported Ronaldo [name changed to protect privacy] without any of the personal belongings he had when they apprehended him, including his Mexican ID and 7,500 Mexican pesos ($378 USD).

— “December 15 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, December 15, 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

Early December 2022

Reporting on December 15, 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, KBI received 11 reports of Border Patrol (BP) confiscating personal belongings and never returning them. These reports include 3 deported people who explained that BP took thousands of Mexican pesos from them (1,000 pesos = $50 USD), leaving them unable to pay for transportation or basic necessities.”

Among cases cited:

When BP apprehended Yael [name changed to protect privacy], agents threw away his clothes and medicine. He had to go 5 days without medication to treat his illness.

— “December 15 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, December 15, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Early November, 2022

Reporting on November 10, 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, 11 people have reported to Kino the confiscation and disposal of their personal belongings by Border Patrol. In these cases, Border Patrol deports people without their most necessary personal belongings, such as identity documents, money and cell phones, which often leaves them stranded and unable to communicate with family members.”

Among cases cited:

Last week, Emanuel [name changed to protect privacy] arrived at Kino after being deported without any of his belongings. BP [Border Patrol] confiscated his belongings when they apprehended him and never returned them. He called the Mexican Consulate but they said they could not mail his items to Mexico. He lost his Mexican ID, cell phone, 1,500 pesos ($77 USD), credit card, and watch. He was only able to communicate with his family members and tell them he was okay after arriving to Kino where he borrowed a phone.

— “Early November Update on the Border, Asylum and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, November 10, 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

Early November, 2022

Reporting on November 10, 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, 11 people have reported to Kino the confiscation and disposal of their personal belongings by Border Patrol. In these cases, Border Patrol deports people without their most necessary personal belongings, such as identity documents, money and cell phones, which often leaves them stranded and unable to communicate with family members.”

Among cases cited:

Upon apprehending Gerardo [name changed to protect privacy], BP [Border Patrol] confiscated his belt, jacket, cell phone, phone charger, wallet and 800 pesos ($41 USD). He commented, “I need my cell phone to be able to communicate with my family and without money, I can’t go anywhere.”

— “Early November Update on the Border, Asylum and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, November 10, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

November 4, 2022

Four Democratic House members, including key committee chairs, sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking the agency to investigate “concerns about Border Patrol agents confiscating asylum seekers’ religious headwear as well as not returning or improperly discarding personal property belonging to apprehended individuals.” (Original link)

They ask GAO to look into how Border Patrol collects, stores, transfers, and returns apprehended migrants’ property, as well has how Border Patrol oversees its agents’ handling of personal property and what complaint mechanisms are in place for individuals whose property is not returned to them.

— Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, and Rep. Joaquin Castro. “GAO Request Personal Property,” November 4, 2022. <https://democrats-homeland.house.gov/imo/media/doc/gao_request_personal_property.pdf>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Under GAO Investigation

Victim Classification:

Mid-October, 2022

Reporting on October 27, 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recounted a Mexican migrant’s inability to receive prompt medical care in Border Patrol custody after being bitten by a venomous animal.

As Caleb [name changed to protect privacy] was crossing the desert, a Border Patrol helicopter appeared overhead and he laid down on the ground, only to be stung by a venomous scorpion on his hip. When a BP agent approached him, Caleb told him he had been stung and needed medical attention, as he was having trouble breathing and his throat felt tingly. The agent told him to sit down and be quiet. After being transported to Yuma, Caleb asked again for medical attention and showed an agent his sting, but she told him to wait. He waited in a holding cell from sometime in the afternoon until 3 am, when there was a shift change and the agent coming on duty saw his condition and immediately brought him to the ER to get an anti-venom shot. Over the course of his detention, he had trouble getting the antibiotics that he needed to prevent the sting from getting infected and also lost all his personal belongings that BP had confiscated, despite contacting the Mexican Consulate for assistance getting them returned.

— “October 27 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 27, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

October 20, 2022

Human rights and humanitarian groups present in Mexican border cities voiced strong concerns about the way that Title 42 expulsions of Venezuelan migrants into Mexico had been occurring since they began on October 12.

Dana Graber Ladek, IOM’s Mexico chief of mission, told Reuters that those expelled include single mothers, pregnant women, and people with illnesses.

Media reports pointed to husbands and wives being separated, with the spouses expelled hundreds of miles apart. “The separations of at least three married couples, as well as a mother returned without her 20-year-old son, occurred during some of the first expulsions of Venezuelans,” Reuters found. From the Rio Grande Valley Monitor:

“Some people came with their wives and they were separated. And they didn’t know where their wives were,” Felicia Rangel-Samponaro said.… “While we were on the bridge, one gentleman received a call from his wife. She was up in Piedras Negras by herself. He was standing there in Matamoros,” Rangel-Samponaro said.

Venezuelan migrants interviewed by the Monitor spoke of poor conditions in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, held “for up to nine days but only receiv[ing] apples to eat and water to drink without access to showers.”

Others reported non-return of documents or damage to personal items like telephones. The Monitor cited a Venezuelan migrant, using a pseudonym:

“They would throw the phones into the bags, ‘plunck, plunck.’ A lot of phones broke or didn’t want to turn on, because in a lot of the places we were taken, they’d throw down our belongings and told us to get our property,” David said.

— Diaz, Lizbeth, and Jose Luis Gonzalez. “U.N. Agency Flags Concern over Mass Venezuelan Expulsions from U.S.” Reuters, October 20, 2022, sec. Americas. <https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/un-agency-flags-concern-over-mass-venezuelan-expulsions-us-2022-10-19/>.

— Gonzalez, Valerie. “Venezuelan Migrants Show up at International Bridge with Questions Following Changes in US Policy.” MyRGV.Com. October 15, 2022. <https://myrgv.com/local-news/2022/10/14/venezuelan-migrants-show-up-at-international-bridge-with-questions-following-changes-in-us-policy/>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Family Separation, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Venezuela

October 13, 2022

“Over the past 2 weeks,” reported the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), “KBI recorded 13 cases of BP [Border Patrol] taking personal belongings and never returning them (an issue highlighted in the recent NGO letter to CBP Commissioner Magnus), 4 cases of physical abuse and mistreatment, 2 cases of deportations in the middle of the night and 2 cases of medical neglect.”

— “Early October Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 13, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

October 3, 2022

A coalition of Arizona-based groups led by ACLU Arizona sent a letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, summarized by the Border Chronicle, asking his agency to cease the practice of requiring asylum-seeking migrants to relinquish their personal belongings, which often get discarded.

The letter’s appendix includes numerous examples, from Border Patrol’s Tucson and Yuma sectors, of items taken from migrants. Among them:

  • Turbans confiscated from Sikh asylum seekers, denounced earlier in an August 1 letter from ACLU of Arizona. Through September 2022, the organizations had “documented at least 95 cases in which Arizona Border Patrol agents confiscated and did not replace turbans from members of the Sikh faith.”
  • Prayer rugs that migrants were forced to abandon, “sometimes in dumpsters. One of these individuals had to discard a prayer rug that had been in their family for over a hundred years.”
  • Several cases of rosaries and bibles, including “multi-generational family bibles,” that migrants were forced to deposit in dumpsters.
  • 42 cases of vital medications confiscated and not replaced between November 2021 and September 2022, including “those for HIV, high blood pressure, diabetes (types 1 and 2), and epilepsy. Agents also took migrants’ asthma inhalers and prenatal and hormonal vitamins from women with high-risk pregnancies. Most of the individuals whose medications for high blood pressure and diabetes were confiscated were released to shelter providers with (sometimes extremely) elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels.”
  • “At least 15 separate instances in which elderly individuals were forced by Border Patrol agents in Arizona to abandon medical assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.”
  • Reports, received by a New Mexico shelter provider, that El Paso Border Patrol Sector agents were seizing “critical medications and medical devices, such as epi-pens and inhalers.”
  • In Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, “The National Butterfly Center (located in Mission, Texas) has found photo identification, birth certificates, and bank account information at its facility or on the perimeter, where migrants are often apprehended. The organization has collected at least ten sets of identification documents in the last year alone. Other advocates who operate in the Rio Grande Valley Sector report finding discarded police reports, medical records, passports, immigration papers, and other documents that could be vital to substantiating an asylum claim.”
  • Between January and October 2022, “A New Mexico shelter provider that receives migrants from El Paso Sector Border Patrol reports that Border Patrol has sometimes confiscated cellphones and either not returned them or returned them in damaged condition.”
  • Between May and September 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative “encountered at least 29 cases in which migrants’ cell phones were confiscated by Arizona Border Patrol agents.”
  • In March 2022, the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition “encountered several families who were forced by Border Patrol agents to discard their children’s toys and stuffed animals with their children in line-of-sight.”

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, Tucson, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

September 29, 2022

A report from the DHS Inspector-General praises Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector’s handling of migrants’ personal property. The sector’s Eagle Pass processing facility uses “a bar-coded wristband system to track the handling, retention, retrieval, and return,” along with “requirements to communicate with detainees about their property while in custody and at their eventual departure.” (Original link) The system was first implemented in February 2022 “to supplement Border Patrol Headquarters’ April 2021 national guidance on managing the personal property of detainees.”

This system, however, is unique to Eagle Pass: CBP does not plan to expand it throughout the sector, the Inspector-General reports. “Although it is possible that several other stations can implement the same procedures associated with the handling and storage of property, due to its dependence on individual station resources, CBP believes that the assignment of volunteers and caregivers to this specific task at all stations sector-wide in DRT [Del Rio Sector] is not practicable.”

— “Del Rio Area Struggled With Prolonged Detention, Consistent Compliance With CBP’s TEDS Standards, and Data Integrity.” Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, September 22, 2022. <https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-10/OIG-22-80-Oct22.pdf>.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

September 15, 2022

Fronteras Desk interviewed Yuma, Arizona-based advocate Fernando Quiroz, who monitors Border Patrol apprehensions of asylum-seeking migrants in the Yuma Sector. Quiroz discussed Border Patrol’s widely denounced confiscation of migrants’ belongings in the sector.

They [hundreds of migrants per day] bring backpacks, clothes, supplies, toys, money, important documents, and starting last year, Quiroz says much of it was being thrown in the trash when they were taken into custody. He took pictures of entire dumpsters filled with their belongings and he asked Border Patrol about it.

“They would say, ‘We here at this Yuma sector, we are not travel agents. We do not have the manpower, we don’t have the people, we don’t have the storage and it’s also a safety issue for us for these individuals to carry their backpacks or their belongings into our sector,’” Quiroz said. “So every single one, imagine every single day, from 400 to 1,000 individuals who are told, ‘Throw your backpack in the trash.’ It is heartbreaking. It typically is very heartbreaking. We’re talking about — this is all they have.”

…“I have here things that I have collected of individuals that have thrown in the trash, from prayer rugs to Bibles to Qurans to religious artifacts. It is sad,” Quiroz said.

— Lauren Gilger. “Border Patrol Made Migrants Throw Away Backpacks, Passports, Birth Certificates.” Fronteras Desk, September 15, 2022. <https://fronterasdesk.org/content/1810080/border-patrol-made-migrants-throw-away-backpacks-passports-birth-certificates>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents.

BP apprehend Brayan [name changed to protect privacy] and confiscated all his personal belongings- $1,800 pesos ($89 USD), a chain with a diamond ring that his father had given to him, a Bible, the keys to his home, his cell phone with all of his contacts, his Mexican IDs, and birth certificate. BP thus deported Brayan to Nogales, Sonora without any of the resources necessary to return home and without the personal items with sentimental value that had helped sustain him in his journey.

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return and destruction of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents.

When BP apprehended Samuel [name changed to protect privacy], agents confiscated all his belongings. They took his phone and removed the SIM card and pocketed it, took his wallet that had $300 in it and removed the credit cards and pocketed them as well. They ripped up his birth certificate in front of him.The agents were speaking in English amongst themselves, so he couldn’t understand what they were saying. He was only able to save his Mexican ID because he had previously hid it in his shoe.

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return of a Mexican migrant’s belongings.

BP apprehended Ronel [name changed to protect privacy] and brought him to Florence, AZ to be detained. BP agents took all of his belongings- his cell phone, money, and legal documents- and did not return them upon his deportation. Ronel was thus stranded in Nogales, Sonora without any identification, money or way to contact his family. 

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

August 3, 2022

Arizona Luminaria recounted the mistreatment of a Sikh asylum seeker who turned himself in to Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents.

On Aug. 3, a Sikh asylum-seeker crossed the border along with his wife and two young children near Yuma to turn themselves in to Border Patrol, according to Ahluwalia. After waiting more than 12 hours near the border wall, they were finally bused to the nearby station for processing.

After waiting all day in the sun — with the parents taking turns holding their young children, ages 2 and 4 — the man was feeling weak and ill, and was beginning to struggle to breathe. He was given water and allowed to sit down as two officers, one of whom he described as rude and aggressive ordered him to remove his turban, according to Ahluwalia.

He explained that he was happy to take it off and let them search it, but he wanted it back afterward. The officers took it off, took photos of him with his hair loose, and confiscated the turban. He said he felt humiliated.

As the processing continued, he told the officers he was feeling worse. They pressured him into signing paperwork he didn’t understand, telling him, “You need to sign this,” in a manner he felt was threatening, according to the case notes. They accused him of pretending to be sick, and one officer pulled him to his feet, pushed him against the wall, and handcuffed him.

His wife, who witnessed the aggression, began crying. When he tried to console her and his children, speaking to them in Punjabi, the officer who handcuffed him said, “You need to speak f—ing English,” he later told his attorney.

The officer then escorted him to a small solitary confinement cell and left him alone. He was in the room for a few hours, during which he threw up two to three times. Though he said there were cameras in the room, and he was banging on the door for help, nobody came. Finally, about three hours later, he was taken back to his family and an officer unshackled him.

He asked multiple times if he could have his turban back, according to Ahluwalia, but he never saw it again. He also repeatedly asked for medical attention, but was denied, with an officer explaining to him that he had already been given Tylenol. Four or five days later, after he was released, a volunteer at a welcome center in Tucson gave him cloth to cover his head.

“I wanted to cry,” he told his attorney. At the welcome center he tested positive for COVID-19, he told Ahluwalia.

— Washington, John. “Border Patrol Has New Orders Not to Trash Sikh Turbans but Isn’t Sharing Guidance Publicly, Advocates Say.” AZ Luminaria, September 19, 2022. <http://azluminaria.org/2022/09/19/border-patrol-now-instructing-agents-to-stop-taking-sikh-turbans/>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings, Religious Freedom Violation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Sikh

August 1, 2022

A letter from the ACLU of Arizona, first covered by the Intercept and Arizona Luminaria, contended that Border Patrol agents in Yuma had confiscated at least 64 turbans from asylum seekers of the Sikh faith so far this year, including at least 50 in the prior 2 months.

These, the letter argues, are “serious religious-freedom violations” against members of the world’s fifth-largest organized religion, most prevalent in India’s Punjab region. “Forcibly removing or targeting a Sikh’s turban or facial hair has symbolized denying that person the right to belong to the Sikh faith and is perceived by many as the most humiliating and hurtful physical and spiritual injury that can be inflicted upon a Sikh,” the letter notes.

Citing interns at an Arizona migrant shelter, Arizona Luminaria reported on August 5 that “the number of turbans confiscated and discarded by Border Patrol is in the hundreds, far beyond the number reported earlier this week.”

CBP often faces allegations of throwing away migrants’ personal belongings. The ACLU letter called it a “universal, well-documented, and recurring practice by agents in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector of forcing apprehended migrants to discard nearly all of their personal property in advance of processing.” The Intercept adds: “Word has begun circulating among those seeking asylum in the Yuma area: Border Patrol is forcing everyone to throw away all personal belongings, except for cellphones, wallets, and travel documents.”

CBP officials told the Washington Post that “they have recently reminded Border Patrol supervisors that agency policies require agents to exercise care when handling ‘personal property items of a religious nature.’” The Border Patrol’s Tucson sector chief told advocates that agents “were being retrained,” according to the Intercept, and CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement cited by the Post that the agency has opened an internal investigation.

In an August 17 update on this story, “the national Sikh Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona told Arizona Luminaria they are aware of at least 12 new cases of turban confiscation this month alone” in Arizona.

“There are good agents and bad ones,” Fernando Quiroz, a Yuma-based volunteer with the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition, told the Border Chronicle. “Some can care less that there’s been a policy change.”

On September 19, 2022, Arizona Luminaria reported that CBP had issued new interim guidance instructing Border Patrol agents to stop confiscating Sikh asylum seekers’ turbans. “When for security reasons agents need to inspect the turban, the interim guidance requires that they subsequently return it to the Sikh person.” The agency did not make this temporary order public; it went into effect on August 6 and CBP shared it with ACLU Arizona and the Sikh Coalition on September 6.

“Whistleblowers working with a Tucson agency that aids migrants and refugees also shared accounts of Border Patrol agents verbally harassing Sikh asylum seekers and denying them their religiously required diets,” Arizona Luminaria added.

— Noah Schramm, Vanessa Pineda, Heather L. Weaver, Daniel Mach, “ACLU of Arizona Letter on Border Patrol Confiscating Sikhs’ Turbans” (Arizona: DocumentCloud, August 1, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22125092-aclu-of-arizona-letter-on-border-patrol-confiscating-sikhs-turbans.

— John Washington, “Border Patrol Agents Are Trashing Sikh Asylum-Seekers’ Turbans” (Arizona: Arizona Luminaria, The Intercept, August 2, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/08/02/sikh-turban-border-patrol/.

— Angela Cordoba Perez, “’I Understood His Pain’: Advocates Denounce Confiscating Belongings From Migrants at Border” (Phoenix: The Arizona Republic, August 5, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2022/08/05/asylum-advocates-denounce-confiscating-belongings-from-migrants-at-border/10230819002/.

— John Washington, “Whistleblowers say Arizona Border Patrol practice of trashing Sikh turbans is widespread” (Arizona: Arizona Luminaria, August 5, 2022) https://azluminaria.org/2022/08/05/whistleblowers-say-arizona-border-patrol-practice-of-trashing-sikh-turbans-is-widespread/.

— Nick Miroff, “Border Officials Investigating Claims Sikh Turbans Were Confiscated” (Washington: The Washington Post, August 3, 2022) https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/03/border-patrol-turban-yuma/.

— John Washington, “Despite Border Patrol leader’s promise to stop, Congress members call out agents still confiscating Sikh asylum-seekers’ turbans” (Arizona: Arizona Luminaria, August 17, 2022) https://azluminaria.org/2022/08/17/congress-members-call-out-border-patrol-agents-still-confiscating-sikh-asylum-seekers-turbans/.

— Melissa del Bosque, “A New Campaign to Get the Border Patrol to Stop Trashing Asylum Seekers’ Possessions” (United States: The Border Chronicle, August 16, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/a-new-campaign-to-get-the-border.

— Washington, John. “Border Patrol Has New Orders Not to Trash Sikh Turbans but Isn’t Sharing Guidance Publicly, Advocates Say.” AZ Luminaria, September 19, 2022. <http://azluminaria.org/2022/09/19/border-patrol-now-instructing-agents-to-stop-taking-sikh-turbans/>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings, Religious Freedom Violation

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

Victim Classification: Sikh

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

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