36 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the victim classification is “Mexico”

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

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

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

Early August, 2022

“In the past 2 weeks, Kino has served 16 people that DHS has deported between 12 am and 3 am,” the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on August 18.

Julia [name changed to protect privacy] and her 7 year old daughter fled Guerrero due to threats of sexual violence toward herself and her daughter. When they crossed into the US, BP detained them and Julia explained she wanted to seek asylum due to violence in Mexico. But BP just took their bio information, without asking further inquiring about their fear, and deported them to Mexico at 3 a.m., placing Julia and her daughter in danger of potentially experiencing the very sexual violence they were fleeing. 

— “August 18 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 18, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Female, Mexico

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

Mid-July, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on severe brutality that a Mexican man allegedly suffered at the hands of a Border Patrol agent:

Benjamín [Name changed to protect privacy] had been in the desert for 8 days when BP encountered him at 4 in the morning. He did not run, but the agent handcuffed him. When Benjamín asked for a drink of water, the BP agent threw him face down onto the ground, began kicking him and stood on the back of his head, which was pushed into a rock until his head was cut open and bleeding. The agent yelled, “If you want water, go get it in your own country! You only come here to f*ck around!” Benjamín eventually lost consciousness. When he came to, another agent sent his search dog to lick the blood from his face. BP took Benjamín to the hospital, only after he asked repeatedly for medical attention. BP then deported him to Mexico without any of his medical paperwork, which Benjamín reports an agent hid in his shirt. Upon arriving at Kino, he shared: “I’m trying to escape death in my country, only to nearly die here [in the US].”

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

June 30, 2022

A Border Patrol-involved vehicle pursuit on Interstate Highway 35, reaching speeds of 90-100 miles per hour, ended in a crash that killed four of seven migrants aboard a Jeep Wrangler in Encinal, Texas (original link). The deceased were male citizens of Mexico and Guatemala.

“This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and reviewed by CBP’s OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility],” CBP reported. “The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.”

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Failure to yield leads to fatal crash off Interstate Highway 35 in Encinal, Texas” (Washington: CBP, July 5, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/failure-yield-leads-fatal-crash-interstate-highway-35-encinal.

Sector(s): Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vehicle Pursuit

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Mexico, Single Adult

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on a Mexican couple whose belongings and medicine were confiscated while in Border Patrol custody.

Humberto [Name changed to protect privacy] together with his wife fled corruption in southern Mexico to migrate to the US and reunite with their US citizen children. …Once they turned themselves in to Border Patrol, the agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 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: Married Adults, Mexico

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported that “Border Patrol agents continue to use COVID as a pretext to expel or deport migrants at night, despite previous Local Repatriation Agreements developed for migrant safety.”

* Testimony from arriving migrants and Kino staff confirm that hundreds of migrants have been expelled to Nogales, Mexico between 12AM and 3AM during the last two weeks. 

* Individuals arriving at Kino earlier this week after being deported at 3AM reported that they had not slept since they were detained. 

* Eliseo [Name changed to protect privacy], a middle-aged Mexican man who wanted to seek work in the US so he could save up to return to his hometown and finish constructing a church there, was deported to Mexico with a group of migrants around midnight. Since he did not have anywhere to go, he and about a dozen other migrants slept in the park downtown.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Early June, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican husband and wife who turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near Nogales, Arizona. “The agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.”

— “June 9 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 9, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico

May 24, 2022

In circumstances that remain to be clarified, an unnamed Border Patrol agent killed a Mexican migrant in Douglas, Arizona after midnight (original link). Abigail Roman Aguilar, 32, from Chiapas, Mexico, died of stab wounds to the upper chest (“sharp force injuries of the trunk”), according to the Pima County Medical Examiner, which ruled the death a homicide on June 17, 2022. The Medical Examiner’s report also noted blunt force injuries to Aguilar’s head, trunk, and extremities (original link).

The Arizona Daily Star reported on June 18:

On May 24, Aguilar was admitted to the Copper Queen Community Hospital in Douglas with face and lip injuries following a barb wire incident while running from the United States Border Patrol, the autopsy report said. After he was discharged from the hospital, he was reportedly involved in an altercation with a Border Patrol agent, who ultimately stabbed Aguilar with a knife.

The May 24 incident is under FBI investigation, and being reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, after which it is to go to CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board. In an e-mail to the Arizona Republic, a spokesperson for the FBI Phoenix office said only that its investigation into an “assault on a federal officer” was ongoing.

This is the second agent-involved killing near Douglas since February 19, when Agent Kendrek Bybee Staheli shot and killed Mexican migrant Carmelo Cruz-Marcos.

— “Statement-Use of Force Incident-Douglas, AZ” (Tucson: Customs and Border Protection, May 24, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-use-force-incident-douglas-az.

— Clara Migoya, “1 dead in Douglas after ‘use of force’ confrontation with Border Patrol” (Arizona: Arizona Republic, May 25, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2022/05/25/1-dead-douglas-after-confrontation-border-patrol-agent/9926410002/.

— Jamie Donnelly, “Report: Migrant stabbed to death by Border Patrol agent in Douglas” (Tucson: Arizona Daily Star, June 18, 2022) https://tucson.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/report-migrant-stabbed-to-death-by-border-patrol-agent-in-douglas/article_dcf55a68-ef32-11ec-b15a-17f8ed410de1.html.

— Mary Coleman, Tweet from Mary Coleman KOLD @Mary_reports (Twitter, June 17, 2022) https://twitter.com/Mary_reports/status/1537902526128721927.

— Gloria Rebecca Gomez, Angela Cordoba Perez, Clara Migoya, “Autopsy report determines migrant was stabbed to death by CBP agent in Douglas” (Phoenix: Arizona Republic, June 22, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2022/06/22/autopsy-report-migrant-stabbed-death-cbp-agent-douglas/7684477001/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

March and April, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado lists several examples of San Diego CBP port-of-entry officers’ refusals to grant humanitarian exceptions to Title 42 for especially vulnerable asylum seekers.

In April 2022, CBP denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Nigerian man with glaucoma and hand tremors who was beaten by police in Mexico; a gay Venezuelan man living with HIV who is partially deaf; a Mexican torture survivor with diabetes; a Haitian woman with a high-risk pregnancy who is experiencing food insecurity; and a disabled Honduran man whose injuries from a car accident have become infected and who needs specialized medical treatment. These requests had been submitted by Ginger Cline, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.

CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry have also recently denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Mexican woman fleeing threats by a cartel who murdered the woman’s husband and whose 12-year- old son has a pacemaker and urgently needs specialized medical treatment; a 14-year-old with a traumatic brain injury he incurred from falling from a two-story building to escape kidnappers; and a two- year-old Honduran asylum-seeking child with severe and worsening epilepsy who suffers from eight- minute-long seizures. Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with Immigrant Defenders Law Center in San Diego, had submitted these requests ultimately denied by CBP.

CBP at the San Ysidro port of entry has failed to respond to humanitarian exemption requests submitted months ago, including for a LGBTQ woman with maternal uterine fibroids who experiences constant bleeding after she was raped twice in Mexico in bias-motivated attacks based on her sexual orientation and for a Mexican domestic violence victim whose husband found her in Tijuana and kidnapped her daughter, according to Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Disability, Domestic Violence Victim, Family Unit, Female, Haiti, Honduras, Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Mexico, Nigeria, Pregnancy, Single Adult, Venezuela

Mid-April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about Border Patrol confiscating asylum-seeking migrants’ mobile phones before expelling them into Nogales, Mexico under Title 42.

A young Mexican woman left her hometown because she had received death threats. She arrived at the border earlier this month and attempted to cross into the US. She was detained by Border Patrol agents who confiscated her belongings, including her cell phone. When she was going to be expelled into Mexico, a Border Patrol agent asked her to sign a paper saying that she would return in 30 days to collect her belongings. She asked the BP agent, “How will I collect my belongings in 30 days? Do I have to climb over the wall again?” The Border Patrol agent just laughed and said he didn’t know. Border Patrol also confiscated several other women ‘s phones from the same group. A few of them were crying because they did not know their family members’ phone numbers to contact them. One young woman in the group was from an indigenous community in southern Mexico and did not speak Spanish. She had been separated from her husband and now had no way to contact him.

— “April 28 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 28, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Indigenous, Mexico, Single Adult

March, 2022

A report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado discusses CBP’s insistence on expelling members of an imminently threatened Mexican family with an injured teenager in San Diego.

In March 2022 CBP turned away a Mexican asylum-seeking family fleeing Michoacán after the cartel that had threatened to kill them tortured a family member into disclosing their location in Tijuana. Desperate to escape the cartel, the family attempted to climb over the 30-foot border wall, but a 14-year-old girl fell and was seriously injured. CBP expelled the family back to danger in Tijuana under Title 42 allowing only the girl’s mother to remain with her at a San Diego hospital. The family told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “she’s fighting for her life, and we only did it because [the cartel] already knew we were in Tijuana. We didn’t have another option.”

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

— Kate Morrissey, “Ukrainians Only: Racial Disparities in U.S. Border Policies Grow More Obvious” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, March 22, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-03-19/ukrainians-border-title-42.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

March, 2022

A report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts CBP’s expulsion of a Mexican family who presented graphic evidence of their protection needs.

In March 2022, CBP officers turned away a Mexican asylum seeker and her children who fled Guerrero after the woman’s husband and teenage son were murdered. The woman brought photos of the chopped-up bodies of her loved ones as evidence of the danger the family had fled. “I’m not here because I want to be here. I’m here to save the lives of my children,” she told the San Diego Union- Tribune. The family spent the night outside the port of entry until Mexican officials pressured them to leave the area.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

— Kate Morrissey, “Ukrainians Only: Racial Disparities in U.S. Border Policies Grow More Obvious” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, March 22, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-03-19/ukrainians-border-title-42.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

Early March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican man expelled to Nogales by Border Patrol agents who did not return his group’s mobile phones:

A young Mexican father who was expelled to Nogales last week reported that Border Patrol had confiscated his cell phone and that of 4 others traveling in the group with him and never returned their phones. The man expressed through tears that the phone itself did not matter much to him, but that he could never replace the photos of his daughter and videos from her birthday celebration that were saved on the phone.

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

February 19, 2022

News reporting datelined February 20 and 21 pointed to Border Patrol personnel shooting a migrant to death in an incident on the night of February 19, on a desert trail about 30 miles northeast of Douglas, Arizona. In a February 23 statement, CBP confirmed that as two Border Patrol agents were intercepting a group of migrants, one of the agents followed a migrant who attempted to escape and, “while taking him into custody discharged his firearm fatally wounding the migrant, tentatively identified as a citizen of Mexico” (original link). The agents were later identified as Kendrek Bybee Staheli, who fired the weapon, and Tristan Tang.

On the evening of February 24, the Cochise County, Arizona Sheriff’s Department posted a statement conveying the agent’s claims that 32-year-old Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, of Puebla, Mexico, resisted capture “then ran approximately six feet away before picking up a large rock and turning back towards the agent making a throwing motion with the hand that held the rock.” The agent then “fired his weapon an unknown number of times as he was in fear for his life and safety” (original link).

The agents requested medical assistance and Cruz-Marcos’s body was airlifted out the next day. As of February 24, 2022, the Cochise County Sheriff was investigating the shooting, as was the Pima County (Tucson area) Medical Examiner’s Office. The Medical Examiner determined that Cruz-Marcos died of multiple gunshot wounds. CBP notified the Mexican consulate, which confirmed that the decedent was a Mexican citizen. CBP reported that its Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was also reviewing the incident, as would CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board.

Investigators must determine whether the shooting was truly an act of self-defense or otherwise fell within CBP’s use of force guidelines, which prohibit using firearms “in response to thrown or launched projectiles unless the officer/agent has a reasonable belief, based on the totality of circumstances, that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death” (original link).

“There are multiple red flags in this investigation” so far, a February 23 statement from the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) contended. It noted that the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) disclosed on February 19 that Border Patrol had killed a migrant, then “removed that statement in subsequent press releases.” SBCC adds:

Instead of the CCSO processing the scene immediately, they waited a day. Even though the other migrants in the area were taken by agents to a Border Patrol station right away, CCSO did not recover the body of the deceased migrant until the following day. The CCSO does not appear to have collected any forensic evidence at all until the next day, including from the agent involved (clothing, fingerprints, ballistics or any other relevant evidence). Instead, they ceded the incident area to border agents who could have tampered with the scene.

SBCC has spearheaded an effort to shed light on Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs), secretive units that often arrive quickly at scenes of possible use-of-force violations like this one. The teams allegedly have a record of interfering with investigations and seeking to build narratives that might exonerate the Border Patrol agents involved.

In April 2022, the Los Angeles-based law firm Karns & Karns, LLP announced that it would be representing Carmelo Cruz-Marcos’s family in a federal tort claim—a precursor to a lawsuit—against Border Patrol. The claim appears to confirm that a Border Patrol Critical Incident Team took part in the investigation. The Tucson Sentinel reported that SBCC and the law firm “argued that the agents ‘prevented’ Cochise County officials from ‘immediately accessing the scene to conduct their own investigation.'”

The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office report on the incident, shared by the Intercept in May 2022, confirms that a Critical Incident Team was on the scene after the shooting. It also cites an English-speaking migrant who had accompanied Cruz-Marcos. That witness claims that he heard Agent Staheli shout “This is America motherf—” shortly before shots were fired. He also alleged that “Agent Tang had told Agent Staheli ‘it would all be ok and that he had his back.’ Carlos further said he heard Agent Tang tell Agent Staheli that he should say he was attacked with a rock.”

“Witnesses to the shooting say Carmelo was never a threat to any Border Patrol agent,” read a news release from the law firm. “The family is demanding an independent investigation of the incident by the FBI and an outside agency that can verify the evidence and facts.”

In a May 6 letter to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre found insufficient evidence to contradict Agent Staheli’s account of the shooting, declining to move forward with a prosecution.

Five members of the group that traveled with Cruz-Marcos later said they were held in detention for a month and a half as witnesses to the shooting. They reported that CBP did not return their money or identification documents.

— “CBP Statement on Agent-Involved Fatal Shooting near Douglas, Ariz.” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, February 23, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-near-douglas-ariz.

— “Sheriffʼs Office Investigates Agent Involved Incident” (Cochise County: Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, February 24, 2022) https://www.facebook.com/CochiseSO/posts/323152363179815.

— “US border agent kills man on rugged trail in Arizona” (Douglas: Associated Press, February 21, 2022) https://apnews.com/article/shootings-arizona-border-patrols-de7f3334b7a06e422d1a4de77dda1354.

— “Migrant killed by Border Patrol agent in Arizona, sheriff’s office says” (Cochise County: Fox 10 Phoenix, February 20, 2022) https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/undocumented-immigrant-killed-by-border-patrol-agent-in-arizona-sheriffs-office-says.

— Paul Ingram, “Migrant killed by Border Patrol agent died from ‘multiple gunshot wounds'” (Tucson: Tucson Sentinel, February 23, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/022222_bp_shooting/migrant-killed-by-border-patrol-agent-died-from-multiple-gunshot-wounds/.

CBP Use of Force Policy (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2021-Jul/cbp-use-of-force-policy_4500-002A.pdf.

— “Recent Killing By Border Patrol Another Example of Compromised Investigations and Possible Cover-Up” (Southern Border Communities Coalition, February 23, 2022) https://www.southernborder.org/recent_killing_by_border_patrol_another_example_of_compromised_investigations_and_possible_cover-up.

— Paul Ingram, “Family of man killed by BP agent near Douglas demands probe, may pursue lawsuit” (Tucson: The Tucson Sentinel, April 12, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/041222_bp_shooting_probe/family-man-killed-by-bp-agent-near-douglas-demands-probe-may-pursue-lawsuit/.

— Paul Ingram, “Border Patrol’s forensic teams being eliminated after ‘cover up’ allegations” (Tucson: Tucson Sentinel, May 6, 2022) https://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/050622_critical_incident_teams/border-patrols-forensic-teams-being-eliminated-after-cover-up-allegations/.

— Danyelle Khmara, “No charges in fatal shooting by Border Patrol agent in Arizona” (Tucson: Arizona Daily Star, May 10, 2022) https://tucson.com/news/local/border/no-charges-in-fatal-shooting-by-border-patrol-agent-in-arizona/article_00e44308-cfbc-11ec-8249-fb2c6862d456.html.

— “Office Report for Incident 22-03910” (Cochise County: Cochise County Sheriff, March 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22005859-cochise-county-sheriff-investigation-into-border-patrol-killing-of-cruz-marcos.

— Ryan Devereaux, “‘This Is America Motherfucker’: Witnesses Describe Border Patrol Killing of Mexican Migrant” (United States, The Intercept, May 12, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/05/12/border-patrol-migrant-killing-coverup/.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed, Under Local Police investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report discussed CBP’s denial of humanitarian parole requests for highly vulnerable migrants at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana.

CBP has denied or ignored more than 100 of the 147 humanitarian parole requests Al Otro Lado submitted to the San Ysidro port of entry, according to attorney Ginger Cline. People denied parole by CBP at the San Ysidro port of entry since December 2021 include: a Salvadoran woman with epilepsy who was kidnapped, drugged, and beaten in Mexico; a Haitian man who experienced two racially motivated assaults in Tijuana; a Mexican woman fleeing cartel threats and severe domestic violence whose 9-year-old child was sexually abused; a Haitian man with painful growths on his chest who was sexually assaulted by his employer and who has been unable to access medical treatment in Tijuana; and a LGBTQ Haitian person who was assaulted in Mexico.

Yet, at other U.S. ports of entry, including Brownsville and Hidalgo, CBP officers have approved hundreds of humanitarian parole requests since late 2021, according to Charlene D’Cruz with Lawyers for Good Government.

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): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Disability, Domestic Violence Victim, El Salvador, Family Unit, Haiti, Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Mexico, Sexual Abuse Victim

2021, all year

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

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

ImmDef’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel using excessive force or physical roughness with children:

  • L.A.C. is a sixteen-year-old child from Honduras who was detained in a hielera[10] and kicked by CBP officers while she slept if she did not get up fast enough.
  • P.A.M. is a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico who was seven-months pregnant while in CBP custody. CBP officers pulled P.A.M.’s hair while conducting a body search and grabbed her ankle without warning, causing her to lose her balance.
  • Upon apprehension, M.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old child from El Salvador] was denied water and witnessed other individuals being physically beaten by immigration officers.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

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

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

Footnotes from above:

[10]: Throughout this complaint, the word hielera is used to refer to CBP custody. Hielera, which roughly translates to “ice box,” is the word used by most children to describe CBP custody due to the extremely cold temperatures maintained in those facilities.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Honduras, Mexico, Pregnancy, Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

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

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

ImmDef’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel using abusive language with children:

  • In the hielera, CBP officers insulted P.A.M. [a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico] and other children, called them animals, and shut doors in their faces.
  • R.M.M. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] received medication for three days, but his later requests for medical attention were outright denied. Instead, CBP officers yelled at him and called him names.
  • G.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] witnessed CBP officers yell at other kids who did not get up right away at five o’clock in the morning for roll call or who did not immediately obey the commands of CBP officers.
  • CBP officers yelled at E.C.C. [a thirteen-year-old child] in both English and Spanish, including waking him and other children by yelling, “Levantense cabrones.” [26]
  • CBP officers called him [D.C.E., a 16-year-old,] a “gangster,” and threatened his aunt.
  • When M.J.C. [a 14-year-old] was first apprehended by CBP, she was handcuffed for approximately twenty-four hours without any food or water. Alone, exhausted from her journey, and afraid for her life, she was forced to sit on the side of the road as CBP officers yelled at her in English, which she did not understand. M.J.C. was cold and wet when she finally arrived at the hielera, but rather than give her warm clothes, CBP officers berated M.J.C., saying that “she should’ve thought about that before coming to the U.S.”
  • M.G.G. is a seventeen-year-old child who arrived in the United States from El Salvador and experienced egregious abuse at the hands of CBP officers. When M.G.G. was apprehended, she was verbally harassed. She reported hearing CBP officers refer to her and other children and families as “motherfuckers” in English, pendejos, and hijos de puta. [37]
  • When she first arrived at the hielera, she [L.L.C., a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] was yelled at by the guards and given a single mylar blanket. L.L.C. and the other children slept in a shelter with only a roof but no walls. L.L.C. recalls being very cold but afraid to ask for more blankets after seeing other children get yelled at.… L.L.C. also suffered verbal abuse while in CBP custody. She was spoken to in both English and Spanish, and officers would become angry and yell at the children when they did not fall asleep immediately.
  • K.M.A. [a 17-year-old] arrived in the United States with a minor friend and witnessed CBP officers take him into a small room and yell at him. Other CBP officers berated K.M.A. because she was pregnant and accused her of providing a false birth certificate. The CBP officers yelled at K.M.A. so much that she cried, and when she asked to call her mother, they refused to allow her to use the phone. K.M.A. was examined by a nurse while detained in CBP custody, and K.M.A. asked the nurse if it was common for the CBP officers to yell at children in the way she had experienced. The nurse responded that she could not answer the question and instead told CBP officers what K.M.A. had asked her. K.M.A. was then yelled at by two CBP officers, who told her that child immigrants should not come to the United States because it was a waste of taxes. The CBP officers accused K.M.A. of only coming to the United States so her baby could be a U.S. citizen and so that she could receive welfare. The officers expressed to her that it was not fair that the U.S. government would pay to support her baby. K.M.A. was also threatened by CBP officers. She was told that she would be put in jail because she was pregnant and because she had brought a fake birth certificate, even though K.M.A. repeatedly assured the officers that it was not fake.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

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

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

Footnotes from above:

[26]: This phrase translates to “Get up a–holes”

[37]: These phrases translate to “a–holes” and “sons of bitches.”

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Guatemala, Mexico, Pregnancy, Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

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

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

ImmDef’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel confiscating children’s documents:

  • P.A.M. [a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico] was ultimately hospitalized for two days because she began experiencing contractions and had a high-risk pregnancy. CBP refused to give her the discharge documents that had important information for her follow up appointments.
  • L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador… Upon apprehension, her birth certificate was confiscated and never returned to her, and she was not allowed to make any phone calls.
  • D.S. is a seventeen-year-old child from Romania who was held in CBP custody for five days. When he was taken into custody, CBP confiscated his passport.… D.S. did not have access to sufficient interpretation services and was forced to sign some documents that were never explained to him in Romanian. D.S.’s passport was never returned to him.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

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

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

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Confiscation of Documents

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Mexico, Romania, Unaccompanied Child

December 3, 2021

Agents in two Border Patrol vehicles pursued a Ford F-150 pickup truck they suspected of carrying undocumented migrants near Encino, Texas, about 51 miles north of the border. The truck refused to pull over.

Agents alerted Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS, highway police). A DPS officer, accompanied by two Border Patrol agents, deployed a vehicle immobilization device. The driver sought to avoid it but struck solar panels near the roadside and rolled over.

“An occupant of the F-150, a male citizen of Mexico, was ejected from the vehicle when it rolled over,” CBP reported (original link). The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

As of December 6, 2021, the incident was being investigated by the Texas DPS and reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Starr County, Texas Justice of the Peace. The DHS Office of Inspector-General was also notified.

— “CBP statement on death of Mexican man after he was ejected from a vehicle following failure to yield near La Gloria, Texas” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, December 6, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-death-mexican-man-after-he-was-ejected-vehicle.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

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: Mexico, Single Adult

October 27, 2021

The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) surfaced the issue of Border Patrol’s “Critical Incident Teams,” which often arrive at the scene when agents may have committed wrongdoing. The SBCC submitted a letter to congressional leaders requesting that they hold hearings into these units’ activities. While Critical Incident Teams may have other roles, coming up with exculpatory evidence to protect agents strongly appears to be one of them. No other law enforcement agency, the SBCC contends, has a similar capability, and the Teams’ existence is not specifically authorized by law.

SBCC was alerted to the teams’ role while carrying out advocacy around the case of Anastasio Hernández, a Mexican citizen whom border agents beat and tasered to death in a 2010 case caught on cellphone video. The Coalition found that a Critical Incident Team failed to notify San Diego police, controlled police investigators’ witness lists, tampered with evidence, sought to obtain Hernández’s medical records, failed to preserve video evidence, and “contacted the FBI and asked them to charge Anastasio with assault while he lay brain dead in the hospital. The FBI declined.”

Critical Incident Teams have existed in some form at least since 1987. (Their “challenge coin,” depicted in SBCC’s document, says “Est. May 21, 2001” and includes images of a chalk outline and a rolled-over vehicle.) They are almost never mentioned in Border Patrol or CBP statements. “Their existence poses a threat to public safety,” SBCC argued, “by concealing agent misconduct, enabling abuse, and exacerbating impunity within the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Immediate investigations into BPCITs are imperative.”

A January 10, 2022 front-page New York Times story about Border Patrol vehicle pursuit tactics included an account of Critical Incident Teams’ presence after an August 3 crash in New Mexico:

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.

This article also noted Critical Incident Teams’ role in the Border Patrol shooting of Mexican migrant Marisol Gómez Alcántara while she sat in the backseat of a vehicle in Nogales, Arizona.

CBP briefed House members about the Critical Incident Teams in late 2021, but this “did not fully address our questions,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the New York Times. As subsequent information requests got no replies from the agency, Congress issued two letters on January 24, 2022. Ten chairpeople of House and Senate Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Oversight committees and subcommittees wrote to Comptroller-General Gene Dodaro, who heads the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO, the Congress’s auditing and investigative arm), asking GAO to produce ar report about the teams (original link). The chairs of the House Homeland Security and Oversight Committees, Rep. Thompson and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) wrote to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, informing him in a more strongly worded message that they are launching their own joint investigation into the Critical Incident Teams (original link). The Thompson-Maloney letter required that CBP turn over a list of documents by February 7.

Bloomberg Government asked CBP Commissioner Magnus, a former Tucson, Arizona police chief who has been in his position since early December, about the Critical Incident Teams. A statement responded that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s specialized teams are ‘vitally important’ in the collection and processing of evidence related to enforcement activities,” Bloomberg reported. Magnus said that CBP would work with the committees and with GAO.

A May 3, 2022 memorandum from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus terminated the Critical Incident Teams, transferring their duties to CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (original link). “By the end of FY [Fiscal Year] 22,” it reads, “USBP will eliminate all Critical Incident Teams and personnel assigned to USBP will no longer respond to critical incidents for scene processing or evidence collection.”

An August 11, 2022 letter from the SBCC warned that “the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is hiring” members of the to-be-dissolved Critical Incident Teams. OPR is CBP’s internal affairs body that investigates and sanctions agents for misconduct, including improper use of force.

— Vicki B. Gaubeca, Andrea Guerrero, “Request for congressional investigations and oversight hearings on the unlawful operation of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs)” (San Diego: Southern Border Communities Coalition, October 27, 2021) https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/alliancesandiego/pages/3292/attachments/original/1635367319/SBCC_letter_to_Congress_Final_10.27.21.pdf?1635367319.

— Eileen Sullivan, “Democrats in Congress Seek Review of Teams Within the Border Patrol” (New York: The New York Times, January 24, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/us/politics/border-patrol-critical-incident-teams.html.

— “Oversight and Homeland Security Chairs Request Information from Customs and Border Protection on Potential Misconduct of Specialized Teams” (Washington: U.S. House of Representatives, January 24, 2022) https://homeland.house.gov/news/correspondence/oversight-and-homeland-security-chairs-request-information-from-customs-and-border-protection-on-potential-misconduct-of-specialized-teams.

— “House & Senate Committee Leaders Request GAO Audit of CBP ‘Critical Incident Teams’” (Washington: U.S. House of Representatives, January 24, 2022) https://homeland.house.gov/news/correspondence/house-and-senate-committee-leaders-request-gao-audit-of-cbp-critical-incident-teams.

— “CBP Eliminates Border Patrol Cover-Up Units” (Southern Border: Southern Border Communities Coalition, May 6, 2022) https://www.southernborder.org/for_immediate_release_cbp_eliminates_border_patrol_cover-up_units.

— Chris Magnus, “Critical Incident Response Transition and Support” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, May 3, 2022. https://assets.nationbuilder.com/alliancesandiego/pages/409/attachments/original/1651850948/Critical_Incident_Response_Signed_Distribution_Memo_%28508%29.pdf?1651850948

— Vicki Gaubeca, Andrea Guerrero, “New information that raises the stakes on the investigation of Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs) and implicates other parts of CBP” (San Diego: Southern Border Communities Coalition, August 11, 2022) https://assets.nationbuilder.com/alliancesandiego/pages/409/attachments/original/1660253686/Letter_to_Congress_re_BPCIT_Aug_2022_r1.pdf?1660253686.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Critical Incident Teams

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

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

Victim Classification: Female, Mexico, Single Adult

October 21, 2021

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

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

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

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

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