32 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in “El Paso”

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

September 15, 2023

In November of 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) from the Department of Homeland Security conducted unannounced inspections of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. They inspected two facilities of the El Paso sector and one Office of Field Operations port of entry. On September 15th of 2023, OIG published a 40 page report of their findings. 

At the time of the inspection, Border Patrol’s facilities had 1,903 detainees in custody at the El Paso processing center (M-CPC) and the inspectors interviewed a random sample of 10 percent of these detainees. The inspection broadly revealed that the Border Patrol facilities met TEDS standards to provide basic amenities including drinking water, meals, access to toilets, hygienic supplies, and bedding. 

The report, however, indicates a series of concerns regarding CBP’s compliance with detention time requirements, as well as providing regularly scheduled meals and showers. During their inspection, they found that of the 190 detainees sampled, 91 were held in custody longer than the specified time included in National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS), which limits custody detention to 72 hours. TEDS standards also require facilities to provide showers to juveniles approaching 48 hours and adults approaching 72 hours in CBP custody. While detainees were provided with showers during intake, they were not provided with showers every 48 or 72 thereafter. Detainees were also not given hygienic materials like toothpaste and toothbrushes during their intake. According to a CBP official, the facility faced limited shower capacity, insufficient staffing, and overcrowding that prevented officers from providing these required showers and supplies. 

The M-CPC had eight different detention pods to place detainees. In each pod, there was overcrowding. For pods 3,5, and 6, capacity reached over 200%, with the pods holding 205%, 203%, and 273% capacity, respectively. 

The inspection also revealed data integrity issues in Border Patrol’s electronic records system, e3. During an inspection of a sample of twenty custody logs, OIG found gaps in entries of when meals, blankets, and hygiene items were provided. When attempting to locate a detainee for interviews, CBP officials were unable to locate the person due to e3 discrepancies.
After the inspection, OIG left the facilities with five recommendations to fix these issues, including developing strategies to facilitate detainee transfers, upgrading staff availability, ensuring compliance with TED standards, establishing regularly scheduled mealtimes, and overseeing a review of the e3 system to monitor data integrity. In their February follow-up, CBP inspected the facility once again, and considered all of their final recommendations resolved.

“Results of Unannounced Inspections of CBP Holding Facilities in the El Paso Area.” Washington: DHS Office of Inspector-General, September 15, 2023. https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2023-09/OIG-23-50-Sep23.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP, El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Cleared by DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit

Mid-September, 2023

As NBC News, the Hill, and CBS news have reported in September, migrant children were forced to be separated from their parents while in CBP custody. A pediatrician associated with Stanford University, Dr, Paul Wise, interviewed families from the facility in Donna,Texas this August and found that many children, some as young as 8 years old, were separated from their parents for up to 4 days. 

The Flores Settlement Agreement of 1993 previously ruled that “minors may not be held in immigration detention for more than 72 hours in most cases”. Exceptions to this rule are largely due to medical circumstances. Reports have shown, however, that minors traveling as part of family units are often detained alone more often and for longer periods of times than unaccompanied minors.There were 737 minors who traveled as part of family units in July. Of these minors, 697 were held between three to five days, 39 were held for longer than 5 days, and there were 15 minors who were held for more than 14 days. 

While it was reported that Border Patrol was providing basic necessities to the children in custody, some children were receiving adult meals and some families were not being provided sleeping mats while they were in custody. 

These violations, CBP stated in their official report about the investigation, are rising from overcrowding in CBP “pods”, or groups in which children are placed. When pods are overcrowded, CBP makes an assessment of a child’s age and gender and places them in a pod of children with similar backgrounds.  

In his 71-page report, Dr. Wise noted these separations could affect the children’s mental health. After interviewing some of the children, he wrote there was “significant emotional distress related to separation, including sustained crying and disorientation”. This largely arose from their inability to communicate with their parents. In many cases, he notes, both the children and their detention caretakers in the facility were unaware of their visitation rights, which grants families the right to request to see each other while in custody. 

While these separations have not been permanent, Dr. Wise’s report reveals that even temporary separations have caused emotional distress for these families.

Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “U.S. Border Agents Are Separating Migrant Children from Their Parents to Avoid Overcrowding, Inspector Finds – CBS News.” CBS News, September 16, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/migrant-children-separated-parents-u-s-border-agents-overcrowding/.
Bernal, Rafael. “Children Separated at US-Mexico Border Had ‘No Interaction’ with Their Parents: Report.” Text. The Hill, September 18, 2023. https://thehill.com/latino/4210694-children-separated-at-us-mexico-border-had-no-interaction-with-their-parents-report/.
Ainsley, Julia. “Border Patrol Temporarily Separated Families This Summer, Court Filing Says.” NBC News, September 18, 2023. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/border-patrol-temporarily-separated-families-summer-court-filing-says-rcna105524.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP, El Paso, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

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

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) 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

January 8, 2023

A series of tweets from the Sunland Park, New Mexico Fire Department reported a late-night single-vehicle rollover crash on the Pete Domenici Highway (New Mexico Highway 136)(original link). It reported two fatalities, and eight injuries, all male, among those aboard the vehicle.

The crash was the result of a Border Patrol pursuit, the Deming, New Mexico Headlight reported:

The Border Patrol confirmed in a statement that its agents initiated a traffic stop shortly before the crash on suspicion it was involved in human trafficking. The agency said the driver lost control of the vehicle “within seconds.”

The suspected smuggling is under investigation by Homeland Security Investigations while the accident is investigated by the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office. The pursuit itself, meanwhile, is under review by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

— SunlandParkFire [@SunlandParkFire]. “At around 11 PM, Fire/EMS Crews Responded to a Single Vehicle Rollover near MM 6 on Pete Domenici Hwy. 8 Male Patients and 2 Male Fatalities. 2 Patients Taken by Air Ambulance to University Medical Center, 6 Transported by Ground to Other Local Hospitals. 2 Patients Critical. Https://T.Co/Cr7fyS9bcT.” Tweet. Twitter, January 9, 2023. <https://twitter.com/SunlandParkFire/status/1612386320919281666>.

— Garcia, Justin. “Two Dead, Eight Injured in Sunland Park Crash.” Las Cruces Sun-News. January 9, 2023. <https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/crime/2023/01/09/two-dead-eight-injured-sunland-park-crash/69792007007/>.

— D’Ammassa, Algernon. “Recent Border Patrol Pursuits Turn Deadly in Southern New Mexico.” Deming Headlight. January 11, 2023. <https://www.demingheadlight.com/2023/01/11/recent-border-patrol-pursuits-turn-deadly-southern-new-mexico/>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

Last Known Accountability Status: Under ICE-HSI Investigation, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult

January 7, 2023

CBS News shared strong surveillance video footage taken outside an El Paso homeless shelter, showing a Border Patrol agent grabbing a migrant and slamming him to the ground. “The 38-second video, which depicts onlookers observing the incident, does not show what led up to the apprehension or subsequent events.” A CBP statement cited by CBS reported that the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility is “reviewing the incident.”

The incident happened in the context of a large-scale arrival of migrants to El Paso, some of whom had not turned themselves in to U.S. authorities. Border Patrol agents captured vanloads of migrants during nighttime operations in and near downtown El Paso on January 3 and 4, El Paso Matters reported; NBC News shared video of Border Patrol agents’ sweeps. “You saw the damage afterward. People were crying because they separated families. It was a hard hit. It was emotional. It impacted people,” said a Colombian migrant.

— Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “Video Shows Migrant Being Slammed to Ground during El Paso Arrest.” CBS News, January 7, 2023. <https://www.cbsnews.com/news/el-paso-migrant-arrest-border-agent-on-video/>.

— Ramirez, Cindy. “Tensions Rise, Hope Falls: Border Patrol Detains Migrants near Sacred Heart.” El Paso Matters, January 4, 2023. <http://elpasomatters.org/2023/01/04/border-patrol-detains-migrants-near-south-el-paso-texas-church/>.

— Ainsley, Julia. “Video Shows Border Agents Arresting Migrants Sleeping by Church Shelter.” NBC News, January 7, 2023. <https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/video-border-agents-police-arrest-migrants-church-shelter-rcna64718>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult

October 4, 2022

Border Patrol agents shot and killed a Mexican migrant inside the Ysleta Border Patrol station in eastern El Paso, Texas. Manuel González Morán, a 33-year-old man from Ciudad Juárez, was shot twice and pronounced dead at an El Paso hospital.

According to CBP’s release, dated October 15, 2022 (original link):

The man exited a detention cell, forced his way past an agent, and got a pair of scissors from a desk in the migrant processing area. Agents issued verbal commands, and one agent deployed an Electronic Control Weapon, which had no effect on the man. The man advanced towards two other agents with the scissors in his hand and two agents discharged their firearms, striking the assailant which successfully stopped his advance.

Agents reportedly sought to subdue González by firing a taser at him, with no apparent result. An agent or agents then shot González at close range. One bullet grazed his arm, another pierced his temple.

“A security camera in the room was not functioning at the time of the incident,” a “person with knowledge of the investigation” told the Washington Post. CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) “is obtaining more information regarding the operational history of the station’s video recording system,” the agency reported.

The FBI is investigating the incident, along with OPR. The DHS Office of Inspector-General was notified, and CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board will review the incident.

The FBI’s October 5, 2022 statement noted, “In 2011, Moran was arrested by the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office in Pueblo, Colorado, on charges of attempted first-degree murder and was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon resulting in serious bodily injury. In May of 2022, Moran was paroled after serving 11-years of his 17-year sentence and was removed from the U.S. to Mexico.” (Original link)

— “Border Patrol Agents Fatally Shoot Apprehended Man after He Arms Himself, Ignores Commands and Advances towards Agents.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection, October 15, 2022. <https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/border-patrol-agents-fatally-shoot-apprehended-man-after-he-arms>.

— Miroff, Nick. “Border Agents Fired Fatal Shots after Migrant Grabbed Weapon, FBI Says.” Washington Post, October 6, 2022. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/04/border-patrol-agent-fatally-shoots-migrant-us-custody/>.

— “FBI Investigative Update on the U.S. Border Patrol Agent Involved Shooting at Ysleta Border Patrol Station.” Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 5, 2022. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/elpaso/news/press-releases/fbi-investigative-update-on-the-us-border-patrol-agent-involved-shooting-at-ysleta-border-patrol-station.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

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:

August 9, 2022

A DHS Inspector-General report, based on seven October 2021 unannounced inspections of El Paso-area CBP facilities, found Border Patrol holding hundreds of migrants in custody for longer than the normal 72-hour limit, despite a lack of overcrowding (original link). In addition, “Border Patrol held some migrants placed for expulsion under Title 42 authorities for longer than 14 days, which is inconsistent with Border Patrol policy,” and CBP was “inconsistent” in its separation of juveniles from unrelated adults in custody.

El Paso Sector Border Patrol Struggled with Prolonged Detention and Consistent Compliance with TEDS Standards (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General, August 9, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-08/OIG-22-57-Aug22.pdf.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

July 27, 2022

A letter from the ACLU of New Mexico and ACLU of Texas called for an investigation of a July 27 vehicle crash in Santa Teresa, New Mexico that killed two Mexican citizens and injured nine others.

While Border Patrol was pursuing the vehicle before it crashed in the pre-dawn hours of the 27th, the agency reported that it had discontinued its chase, and that the driver lost control, flipping the vehicle. In an initial statement shared over Twitter by Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector chief, CBP had portrayed the incident as agents having “arrived on-scene of a single vehicle rollover accident.” (Original link)

Two Mexican citizen brothers, who were allegedly seeking to smuggle eleven migrants, face federal and state charges as a result of the incident; one said that the criminal organization that hired him had ordered him “not to stop if law enforcement attempted to pull him over.”

Border Patrol agents stand accused of a pattern of engaging in dangerous vehicle pursuits, at times in populated areas, with increasingly frequent fatalities. “There have already been 17 deaths this year due to Border Patrol vehicle pursuits, while there were 23 last year – an 11-fold increase since 2019,” the ACLU letter noted, urging CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus not to allow agents to employ Title 42 to expel any of the “victim-witnesses.”

— Rebecca Sheff, Shaw Drake, “Border Patrol’s Deadly Vehicle Pursuit on July 27, 2022 in Santa Teresa, NM” (New Mexico, Texas, ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of Texas, July 27, 2022) https://www.aclu-nm.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/2022.07.27_aclu_letter_to_cbp_re_santa_teresa_vehicle_pursuit.pdf.

— Cindy Ramirez, “ACLU again questions Border Patrol pursuits, investigations after rollover leaves 2 dead” (El Paso: El Paso Matters, July 29, 2022) https://elpasomatters.org/2022/07/29/two-dead-in-santa-teresa-new-mexico-rollover-crash-after-border-patrol-pursuit/.

— Julian Resendiz, “Cartel to driver in fatal crash: Don’t stop for Border Patrol” (El Paso: Border Report, August 2, 2022) https://www.borderreport.com/immigration/border-crime/cartel-to-driver-in-fatal-crash-dont-stop-for-border-patrol/.

— “Two die in vehicle accident transporting undocumented migrants in New Mexico” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, August 6, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/two-die-vehicle-accident-transporting-undocumented-migrants-new.

— Gloria Chavez [@USBPChiefEPT]. “Please See Our Statement on the Accident That Occurred This Morning in Santa Teresa, NM. Https://T.Co/Qpfs4cSr0d.” Tweet. Twitter, July 27, 2022. <https://twitter.com/USBPChiefEPT/status/1552320548977291264>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification:

June 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups, led by ACLU Arizona, to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus cites a case of a Border Patrol agent allegedly stealing a migrant’s cash.

The ACLU of New Mexico encountered a woman who reported that the attending Border Patrol agent confiscated her wallet containing $240, slid the money into his pocket, and then returned the wallet. When she asked the agent where the money was, he changed the subject and told her not to worry since, “you have a very good case and will be approved to stay.”

— 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

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female

June 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups, led by ACLU Arizona, to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus cites a case of U.S. border authorities confiscating a child’s medication and denying medical assistance.

The ACLU of New Mexico encountered a woman who was detained by Border Patrol agents in El Paso with her two children. Her five-year-old daughter has epilepsy and takes medication three times a day and follows a strict dietary regimen. Once she was detained by CBP, her daughter’s medications were taken away, and the family was refused any medical assistance until later that night, after her daughter began convulsing. Her daughter was taken from CBP custody to the University Medical Center (UMC) in El Paso where she stayed for two days. Doctors at UMC prescribed medications for four months, as well as Enfamil and PediaSure nutrition drinks for approximately one month. Once the child returned to CBP detention, CBP agents withheld the medicine and meal supplements prescribed by UMC staff. The mother was unable to obtain medication for her child until they were released to a shelter in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where her child once again had convulsions. While at the shelter, her child received medical care and medication.

— 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

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child

April 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups led by ACLU Arizona to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, citing “a New Mexico shelter provider that receives migrants from the El Paso Sector Border Patrol,” reported on an 18-year-old migrant boy who was separated from his mother “around April of this year” who “was released from Border Patrol custody without his epilepsy medication.”

— 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

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 2022

A lesbian asylum seeker from Honduras told Human Rights Watch of how U.S. border officials applied Title 42, expelling her to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where she had already endured a kidnapping, despite her pleas for protection.

She said that when she explained to US border officials that she was a lesbian seeking asylum from Honduras and that she had also experienced abuse in Mexico, agents laughed at her. She said one agent told her, “I don’t care what’s happening to you.” She was expelled to Honduras, and immediately fled again to the US border, this time afraid to seek asylum for fear of being returned to Honduras again.

US: LGBT Asylum Seekers in Danger at the Border (New York: Human Rights Watch, May 31, 2022) https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/31/us-lgbt-asylum-seekers-danger-border.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Honduras, LGBTQ

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report recounted the experience of four Nicaraguan and Venezuelan asylum seekers who were laterally flown from McAllen to El Paso, Texas, detained for more than 10 days, then placed into the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program.

The men had crossed the border near the Rio Grande Valley in November 2021, where CBP initially detained them in horrible conditions in hieleras (extremely cold cells), woke them in the middle of the night, shackled them by their hands, feet, and waists, and then flew them to El Paso. There they were held in CBP cells for several more days before being sent to Ciudad Juárez under RMX. CBP falsely told some of the men that they were being transferred for release to family members in the United States.

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, El Paso Field Office, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult, Venezuela

January 13, 2022

According to a January 2022 Human Rights First report on the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, “Some migrants and asylum seekers said CBP officers refused to provide masks to detainees who requested them and that some CBP officers were themselves not consistently wearing personal protective equipment.” In San Diego in early January 2022, one man “reported that CBP officers refused to provide him a mask when he requested one.”

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, El Paso Field Office, San Diego, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard of Public Health

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, reported that “CBP did not permit detained migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom were detained for nearly two weeks, to call their families to inform them of their whereabouts.”

After their return to Mexico under RMX, many learned that CBP officers had lied to them when the officers claimed that CBP would contact their family members in the United States, leaving their families in anguish for weeks uncertain as to the fate of their loved ones.

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, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, recounted examples of denial of medical attention to detained migrants.

A Nicaraguan man told Human Rights First that CBP officers ignored another detainee who lay unconscious on the floor of the cell for hours until other detainees begged for assistance. The Border Project reported that a migrant placed in RMX in El Paso had been held in a CBP detention facility for four days and denied needed blood pressure medication.

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, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua

December 2021

December 2021 guidance for implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program specified that individuals should be exempted from the program if they suffer from mental or physical health issues or disabilities; vulnerabilities from advanced age; or risk of harm due to sexual orientation or gender identity (original link). Despite that, a January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of RMX in El Paso, reported several cases of CBP returning vulnerable people to Mexico.

– In December 2021, a gay Venezuelan asylum seeker was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX despite having informed CBP officers of his sexual orientation. While in CBP custody the man endured harassment because of his sexual orientation and asked multiple CBP officers if there were any protections for members of the LGBTQ community but was told “no.” The man reported to Human Rights First that he fears harm in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

– A man with cancer was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX, even though he and his attorneys had informed DHS of his condition. As of mid-December 2021, the Border Project reported that DHS said that the agency was attempting to locate the man in Mexico.

– A Nicaraguan asylum seeker who suffers from chronic migraines was nevertheless returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX in December 2021. The man told Human Rights First that CBP officers did not ask him any questions about his medical condition. The man was returned to Mexico without his medication, which CBP officers discarded while he was in custody. He has suffered several migraines while stranded in a shelter in Mexico.

The Border Project also identified dozens of individuals who CBP officers in El Paso failed to properly exclude from RMX in December 2021 based on DHS’s own screening criteria, including a man living with HIV; a man experiencing pain and limited use of his hand because the Mexican cartel that kidnapped him had amputated part of his finger on a video call with the man’s family to extort money from them; and a dozen LGBTQ individuals, one of whom had been raped and threatened with death in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

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.

— Adolfo Flores, Hamed Aleaziz, “US Border Authorities Have Incorrectly Placed Immigrants With Medical Conditions In The Relaunched ‘Remain In Mexico’ Program, Attorneys Say” (BuzzFeed, December 17, 2021) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/us-border-authorities-wrongly-sought-to-force-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Nicaragua, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult, Venezuela

September 25, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “J.N.L.,” a Mexican migrant who claimed that he and his minor son suffered physical abuse and abusive language while attempting to turn themselves in to a Border Patrol agent in El Paso.

On Sept. 25, at around 6:30 p.m., my son and I crossed the Rio Grande River to the United States at the height of Oro Street, where the train ended. When we crossed there, we stayed because we saw that the border patrol truck was coming. When it arrived, an officer got out quickly and screamed at us. It seemed like he was under the influence of some drug because out of nowhere, he grabbed my son by his shirt and pressed him down against the gravel. I told him, “buddy, you cannot treat my son like that; he is a minor. He is only 13 years old, and I will report it.”

He threw me face first and then grabbed me by my neck. I felt he was suffocating me. He yelled at me and told me to go ahead and report him and called me “trash.” He said, “I am not your buddy; I am an immigration officer.”

We never tried to run. He seemed to have a Dominican accent. He called on the radio for backup, and soon other officers arrived in a gray-colored uniform. I realized they were sheriff officers.

I told the sheriff officers about the mistreatment my son received from the Border Patrol officer. I asked them if I could report it. They responded that they were county officials and they were there to transfer us to get fingerprinted. I was nervous and scared and did not notice the patrol number or names. They took our fingerprints and then took us over the bridge to Juárez.

My right arm hurts, and my neck hurts even from drinking water. My son is also sore and in pain. This was not fair treatment.

The Border Network for Human Rights stated that it shared this and other testimonies in its February 2022 abuse monitoring report “with the agencies involved.”

The State of Human Rights at the U.S. – Mexico Border: Abuse Documentation 2022 Campaign Report (El Paso, Border Network for Human Rights, February 22, 2022) https://bnhr.org/abuse-documentation-2022-campaign-report/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Mexico

September 18, 2021

Border Patrol agents in two vehicles pursued an Acura SUV that circumvented the Border Patrol tactical checkpoint in Deming, New Mexico. The driver “lost control and crashed,” a CBP release reported (original link). “Multiple occupants were ejected from the vehicle, which caught on fire.”

A female citizen of Ecuador was pronounced dead at the scene. At least seven more individuals were hospitalized. One, a male citizen of Brazil, “succumbed to his injuries on September 27, 2021.”

“This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the New Mexico State Police and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator,” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was also notified of the incident.”

— “Multiple migrants airlifted to hospital, one deceased” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, September 21, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/multiple-migrants-airlifted-hospital-one-deceased.

— Bill Armendariz, “1 dead, 9 injured in rollover near Luna County Border Patrol checkpoint” (Deming: Deming Headlight, September 19, 2021) https://www.demingheadlight.com/story/news/2021/09/19/1-dead-9-injured-rollover-near-luna-county-border-patrol-checkpoint/8413349002/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Brazil, Ecuador, Female, Single Adult

August 3, 2021

An August 25 letter to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and the ACLU of Texas described an August 3 Border Patrol vehicle pursuit that led to two fatalities in New Mexico.

Early in the morning of August 3, 2021, a Border Patrol agent assigned to the Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S. Border Patrol Station was reportedly patrolling New Mexico State Road 185 approximately six miles south of the Border Patrol checkpoint, which is located approximately 69 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. According to CBP, the agent witnessed a northbound vehicle pull to the side of the road and then proceed north. The Border Patrol agent reportedly followed the vehicle without activating his emergency equipment.

The vehicle reportedly evaded the Border Patrol checkpoint by driving onto the southbound lanes of New Mexico State Road 185 and then continued north, at which time the Border Patrol agent activated his emergency equipment and attempted to stop the vehicle. Another Border Patrol unit also reportedly pursued the vehicle.

Approximately three miles north of the Border Patrol checkpoint, the vehicle crashed. Several occupants were ejected from the vehicle. The agency’s statement simply claims “the driver lost control and crashed,” but does not indicate the location or conduct of Border Patrol agents’ vehicles immediately preceding the crash.

A CBP release, issued two weeks later, reported that one passenger aboard the vehicle, a male citizen of Ecuador, died (original link). The vehicle’s driver, a male U.S. citizen, died of his injuries 12 days after the crash. Eight other passengers were hospitalized.

“This incident is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the New Mexico State Police, and reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility and the El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner,” CBP’s release continued. “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General was also notified.”

It was the first of two Border Patrol pursuits ending in fatal crashes in four days. Three people died in a crash following an August 7, 2021 chase in Arizona.

This incident would be featured in a January 10, 2022 front-page New York Times story about Border Patrol vehicle pursuit tactics. The Times account included the role of Border Patrol’s secretive Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs), which advocates accuse of having helped to frustrate investigations into abuses committed by agents:

Body camera footage from a state police officer captured one of the Border Patrol agents saying: “Our critical incident team is coming out. They’ll do all the crime scene stuff—well, not crime scene, but critical incident scene.” The agent said that he and his colleague would give statements to the team, which it would share with the police.

On June 7, 2022, the ACLU of Texas and ACLU of New Mexico confirmed that Border Patrol Critical Incident Team personnel were at the scene of the crash within about an hour. Through state-level public records requests, the ACLU obtained the first-ever publicly available copy of a BPCIT incident report. The 162-page document “raises more questions than it answers,” the organization observed (original link). It pointed out several inconsistencies in the BPCIT report’s findings, including its descriptions of the distance at which the Border Patrol vehicle was following, when it activated its lights and sirens, whether “spike strips” were used to disable the pursued vehicle, and even the number of miles over which the chase took place.

The quality of the incident report, the ACLU offices concluded, raises concerns about CBP’s plan to terminate the BPCITs by absorbing their personnel into CBP’s Office of Public Responsibility (OPR) by the end of September 2022. “While OPR is tasked with conducting independent and impartial investigations, confidence in their results is wholly undermined by the involvement of Border Patrol’s CITs as investigators.”

Times reporter Eileen Sullivan identified the vehicle’s driver: 25-year-old Erik A. Molix, who was transporting nine undocumented migrants in a sport utility vehicle. Agents chased him at speeds reaching 73 miles per hour. A Border Patrol vehicle clipped Molix’s SUV, sending it tumbling off the road.

One of the surviving migrants aboard Molix’s SUV told Al Jazeera that, after Molix initially fled a Border Patrol vehicle:

“the agent rammed the rear of the SUV. …I remember that as soon as they hit us in the back, this coyote grabbed the wheel like he was driving a Ferrari.… I stared at the speedometer and saw we were going like a hundred and something. The car was even shaking. And right when I got up, I felt the Border Patrol hit us again, and that’s where I lost consciousness.”

Reporting in December 2022, Al Jazeera’s Mark Scialla stated that “this is the first time” that the migrant, Honduran citizen Lesvin Gámez, had shared his story. “The Border Patrol never contacted him to explain what had happened nor asked for his account. His story runs contrary to the Border Patrol’s version of events and raises questions about the involvement of” the Border Patrol Critical Incident Team.

Molix’s mother, a 5th-grade teacher in El Paso, found out about her son’s death from a CBP news release. While he may have been doing something illegal, she told the Times, “That doesn’t mean you have to die for it.”

The ACLU’s August 2021 letter called on CBP to carry out “robust and independent investigations” into the pursuit incident, and that the agency publicly release its written vehicle pursuit policy and review whether Border Patrol agents deviated from it during the August 3 chase.

CBP made its vehicle pursuit policy public, in redacted form, for the first time in November 2021 (original link). On May 24, 2022, the Associated Press reported that CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus “developing a new policy for vehicle pursuits with an eye toward increasing safety.”

— Rebecca Sheff, Shaw Drake, “CBP’s Vehicle Pursuit Policy and Border Patrol’s Deadly Pursuit of a Vehicle on August 3, 2021 near Las Cruces, New Mexico” (New Mexico and Texas: ACLU of New Mexico, ACLU of Texas, August 25, 2021) https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/aclu_letter_to_cbp_re_las_cruces_vehicle_pursuit.pdf.

— “Smuggler loses control of vehicle while evading checkpoint, causing a death and injuries to ejected passengers” (Las Cruces: CBP, August 17, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/smuggler-loses-control-vehicle-while-evading-checkpoint-causing.

— Eileen Sullivan, “A Rise in Deadly Border Patrol Chases Renews Concerns About Accountability” (New York: The New York Times, January 9, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/09/us/politics/border-patrol-migrant-deaths.html.

Emergency Driving Including Vehicular Pursuits by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Personnel (Washington: CBP, January 16, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2021-Nov/CBP-directive-emergency-driving-Including-vehicular-pursuits-us-cbp-personnel-redacted.pdf.

— Elliot Spagat, “Border agency plans vehicle pursuit policy to raise safety” (Donna: Associated Press, May 24, 2022) https://apnews.com/article/politics-us-customs-and-border-protection-texas-law-enforcement-agencies-694e39abaca42abbee4f1093484b9b76.

— Shaw Drake, Rebecca Sheff, “Border Patrol is Investigating Itself Following Deaths, Report Reveals” (Texas and New Mexico, ACLU of Texas and ACLU of New Mexico, June 7, 2022) https://www.aclu.org/news/immigrants-rights/border-patrol-is-investigating-itself-following-deaths-report-reveals.

Report as prepared by EPT CIT including all facts pertaining to the case listed above (El Paso: U.S. Border Patrol, 2021) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22016802-us_cbp_final_report_redacted.

— Scialla, Mark. “‘Hurting People’: The ‘Cover-up Teams’ Operating on the US Border,” December 12, 2022. <https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/12/12/the-cover-up-teams-operating-on-the-us-border>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Ecuador, Single Adult, U.S. Citizen or Resident

June 10, 2021

Border Patrol agents pursued, for over 34 miles near Deming, New Mexico, two vehicles that failed to pull over. “At that point,” a CBP release reported (original link),

four undocumented migrants jumped from one of the moving vehicles on New Mexico State Road 146. While some BPAs [Border Patrol agents] stopped to render assistance, others continued to pursue the two vehicles which eventually stopped. Both drivers and their passengers were taken into custody by BPAs.

One of the four undocumented migrants who jumped from the moving vehicle, a female citizen of Ecuador, suffered head injuries and was eventually transferred to University Medical Center in El Paso, TX, where she was declared deceased by medical personnel on June 13, 2021.

— “U.S. Border Patrol Failure To Yield Incident” (Deming: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, June 15, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/us-border-patrol-failure-yield-incident-0.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Ecuador, Female, Single Adult

March, 2021

Human Rights Watch reported on the Title 42 expulsion of José M. (pseudonym), a gay man who fled Honduras and sought asylum by crossing from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso. “He said he had told US border officials that he is gay and that he was afraid to be sent to Mexico, but hours later CBP agents sent him to Mexico. Before expelling him, US officials made him throw away everything he had, including the few clothes he had.”

US: LGBT Asylum Seekers in Danger at the Border (New York: Human Rights Watch, May 31, 2022) https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/31/us-lgbt-asylum-seekers-danger-border.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Honduras, LGBTQ