310 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct

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

Early April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about two Guatemalan men who were expelled to Nogales, Mexico in the middle of the night:

Pablo and William (not real names) arrived at Kino the morning after Border Patrol agents expelled them to Nogales, México. They are both Guatemalan nationals, and had originally crossed in another location, and so were unfamiliar with the area. They both reported that they were expelled around 2 in the morning. As they did not have anywhere to go, they spent the night out in the open, trying to sleep on the ground, and without anything to protect themselves from the cold. Pablo is an older man, while William is in his early twenties. Pablo indicated that when Border Patrol detained him, he requested medical attention as he felt severely dehydrated. Although he complained to Border Patrol of chest pains and a headache, his request was ignored. It was only after he arrived to Kino that he was finally able to receive medical assistance.

— “April 14 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 14, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

Early April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a man whom Border Patrol injured and expelled into Mexico near Nogales, Arizona:

Last week, a Border Patrol agent ran over Marco Antonio (not real name), a Guatemalan national, with his four-wheeler before pushing him to the ground and detaining him. The BP agent first hit him with the front bumper and then ran over his right leg with one of the front wheels. Another BP agent realized that Marco Antonio could not walk, and so picked him up and carried him to another four-wheeler to transport him to the hospital. At the hospital, Marco Antonio was treated for severe dehydration and a dislocated knee joint. Hours later, he was transported to the border in Nogales, where they arrived around noon. Mexican immigration officials refused to accept him because of his condition, as he was unable to walk. Border Patrol then drove him back to the station, and later that day, they took him back to Nogales, where they expelled him on or after 10PM, when there were no Mexican authorities to receive him.

— “April 14 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 14, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Dangerous Deportation, Pedestrian Strike, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

April 7, 2022

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained documents from the DHS Office of Inspector-General (OIG) indicating that the agency’s independent watchdog has been suppressing, delaying, and watering down information about serious patterns of sexual harassment and domestic abuse within the Department’s law enforcement agencies.

The POGO report, “Protecting the Predators at DHS,” offers some shocking findings, as does the New York Times’s April 7 coverage of the report. They include:

  • A 2018 OIG survey found that more than 10,000 CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. That is more than a third of the 28,000 survey respondents. Of these, 78 percent said they did not report the incident, often out of a belief that doing so would derail their careers. Examples included “surreptitious videotaping in bathrooms, unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate sexual comments.” The survey was part of an OIG report for which fieldwork ended two and a half years ago, in October 2019—but the report had still not seen the light of day.
  • Of 1,800 sexual harassment cases within the Department, 445 were at ICE and 382 were at CBP.
  • The unpublished OIG report found that DHS agencies paid 21 employees nearly $1 million in settlements from sexual harassment-related complaints over six years, but there are few records of any investigations or disciplinary actions against the aggressors. One victim received a $255,000 payout. Senior officials at the OIG objected to mentioning these settlements in the as-yet unpublished report.
  • The unpublished OIG report notes that “women made up only 5 percent of CBP’s Border Patrol workforce,” well below the federal law enforcement average of 15 percent.
  • Another OIG report, published in 2020, covered DHS law-enforcement personnel found to have committed domestic violence when off duty. Inspector-General Joseph Cuffari and his staff pushed to withhold many key findings that had appeared in this report’s earlier drafts. Initially, the report found that agents who committed domestic abuse received “little to no discipline.” In an internal memo, Cuffari ordered that removed, calling it “second-guessing D.H.S. disciplinary decisions without full facts.” This language is troubling, as second-guessing disciplinary decisions is something that inspectors-general are often compelled to do.
  • Employing law enforcement personnel with a demonstrated propensity for abusing domestic partners and family members “raises questions about someone’s fitness for the job if they abuse someone they have committed their life to,” James Wong, a former CBP deputy assistant commissioner for internal affairs, told POGO. “How are they going to treat a total stranger they have no relationship with [like a migrant]? Who’s going to stop them?” The OIG report’s draft had raised concerns that allowing these agents to keep their weapons “put[s] victims and the public at risk of further violence,” but Cuffari ordered that language removed for risk of “appearing biased.”

POGO, a non-governmental watchdog group, has published past reports and allegations critical of Cuffari, whom Donald Trump named to the DHS Inspector-General post in 2019. “The suppressed DHS watchdog reports on sexual misconduct and domestic violence are part of a pattern where Cuffari has appeared unwilling to oversee his department as an independent watchdog,” POGO’s report contends. “Sadly, Cuffari himself has an undeniable pattern of removing significant facts and evidence from major reports. As a result of this pattern, his independence and impartiality are in question.”

“Only hours after the story appeared,” POGO notes, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “announced he had become ‘aware of draft unpublished reports from the Office of the Inspector General that underscore the need for immediate action.’ Mayorkas announced the creation of a ‘working group’ to ‘conduct a 45-day review of employee misconduct discipline processes currently in effect throughout DHS.'”

On April 26, 2022, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Inspector-General Cuffari voicing concern about POGO’s findings (original link). “Sexual harassment and misconduct in agency ranks always demand immediate action,” reads the letter, which includes a list of questions to be answered by May 17, 2022. “Any efforts by an OIG to obscure or downplay the seriousness or pervasiveness of the issue, or to improperly delay releasing evidence of misconduct, are inappropriate.”

Cuffari responded to the senators with a May 13 letter blaming “senior DHS OIG officials who preceded me,” “the intransigence of some inspectors,” and OIG staff withholding information from him. (original link). The Inspector-General insisted that the withheld reports were not up to established standards, but the letter did not clearly explain why quality improvements would be delayed for years for reports with such striking and significant findings.

“This is not the response of someone committed to meeting the statutory mandate for inspectors general,” read a Twitter thread from POGO’s director of public policy, Liz Hempowicz. “I would never have written this,” Gordon Heddell, a former Defense Department inspector-general, said of the letter in a June 16 New York Times article. “To me, what he’s saying is, ‘I’m leading a very dysfunctional office.’”

On June 16, DHS announced an effort to reform employee misconduct discipline processes. “When Secretary Mayorkas was made aware of the [unpublished draft OIG sexual harassment] report, he immediately launched a 45-day review into Department-wide employee misconduct discipline processes,” the Department’s statement reads (original link). It continues, “Centralizing disciplinary processes will ensure that allegations of serious misconduct are handled by a dedicated group of well-trained individuals, who are not the employees’ immediate supervisors, at each DHS component agency.”

“The announced reforms underscore a deepening rift between the Homeland Security Department and its inspector general,” the New York Times reported on June 16. “While Mr. Mayorkas has taken steps to address the allegations in the reports, Mr. Cuffari and other senior officials in the inspector general’s office have instead either downplayed the significance of the findings or fiercely defended their removal.”

— Adam Zagorin, Nick Schwellenbach, Protecting the Predators at DHS (Washington: Project on Government Oversight, April 7, 2022) https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2022/04/protecting-the-predators-at-dhs/.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Watchdog Omitted Damaging Findings From Reports” (New York, The New York Times, April 7, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/07/us/politics/homeland-security-inspector-general.html.

— Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Charles Grassley, Letter to DHS Inspector-General Joseph V. Cuffari (Washington: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 26, 2022) https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2022-04-26%20RJD%20CEG%20Letter%20to%20IG%20Cuffari.pdf.

Letter from DHS Office of Inspector General to Senators Durbin and Grassley (Washington: DHS OIG, May 13, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/IG-Cuffari-response-to-Chair-Durbin-and-RM-Grassley-20220513-Redacted.pdf.

— “Tweet from Liz Hempowicz @lizhempowicz” (United States: Twitter, May 18, 2022) https://twitter.com/lizhempowicz/status/1527004986613301251.

— “Secretary Mayorkas Directs DHS To Reform Employee Misconduct Discipline Processes” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, June 16, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/06/16/secretary-mayorkas-directs-dhs-reform-employee-misconduct-discipline-processes.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Department Will Make Changes to Its Disciplinary Process” (New York: The New York Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/16/us/politics/homeland-security-department.html.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Sexual Assault or Harassment, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed, Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: DHS Employee

April 4, 2022

In a Fox News appearance, National Border Patrol Council union President Brandon Judd accused the Biden administration and the Democratic Party of allowing migrants into the United States “to change the demographics of the electorate.” According to journalist Melissa del Bosque, “Judd was echoing the ‘great replacement theory,‘ a white-supremacist belief with roots in the French nationalist movement of the early 20th century.”

Judd’s remarks were the subject of a May 6, 2022 USA Today story, which pointed out that this “Great Replacement” notion had appeared in the manifestos of mass shooters. The story voiced concern that Brandon Judd “is a federal employee, paid by taxpayers and tasked with the sensitive job of helping to police the nation’s border for an arm of the executive branch of government.” Judd texted to USA Today that he had never heard of the Great Replacement theory.

— Melissa del Bosque, “The Border Patrol Union Leads the Charge on Title 42 Misinformation” (United States: The Border Chronicle, April 12, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-border-patrol-union-leads-the.

— Will Carless, “’Replacement Theory’ Fuels Extremists and Shooters. Now a Top Border Patrol Agent Is Spreading It.” (USA Today via msn.com, May 6, 2022) https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/replacement-theory-fuels-extremists-and-shooters-now-a-top-border-patrol-agent-is-spreading-it/ar-AAWYxzI.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

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

March, 2022

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

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

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

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

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

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the experience of a Honduran asylum-seeking family that spent three days in CBP custody before being expelled into Mexico under Title 42.

CBP held an asylum-seeking Honduran family in freezing cells for days before expelling them under Title 42 without their belongings to Mexico where they were kidnapped just prior to attempting to seek asylum near Calexico. During their three days in CBP custody, the family of three children and their mother were forced to sleep on the floor of a freezing cold holding cell with nothing but foil blankets to keep warm. When CBP expelled the family under Title 42 to San Luis Río Colorado, the officers did not return the family’s possessions, including money, luggage, and medications. They received only their shoes, which were soaking wet and covered in dirt causing painful blisters to develop as the family walked in search of a bus to take them to a shelter.

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): El Centro, San Diego Field Office

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

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

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

“In March 2022, CBP turned away a Nigerian asylum seeker with urgent medical needs,” reads a report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado. “The man had been shot multiple times in Mexico, required a colostomy bag to eat, and urgently needed medical treatment unavailable in Tijuana, according to Nicole Ramos, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.”

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 Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Nigeria, Single Adult

Late March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) spoke with five migrants, removed to Nogales, who had been traveling with Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, a Mexican migrant who was shot to death by a Border Patrol agent on February 19:

Five members of the group traveling with the migrant who was murdered by Border Patrol on February 19th arrived at Kino earlier this month. They had all been held a month and a half in detention as witnesses to the crime. One of those in the group was a cousin of the victim, and was not informed for a week that his cousin had died.

When the group was expelled to Nogales, Sonora, Border Patrol did not return their identification or the money they had with them when they were detained.

— “March 31 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 31, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Late March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a family expelled to Nogales despite pleading with a Border Patrol agent for asylum:

A Guatemalan father traveling with his wife and three children, 2 of whom are US citizens, shared with KBI staff that US officials refused to hear their asylum claim. The family crossed into the US through the desert and turned themselves into Border Patrol agents to ask for asylum. His wife tried to explain their case to one Border Patrol agent, and he responded, “Shut up lady, don’t ask!” When Border Patrol put the family on a bus to expel them, she pleaded with another agent to at least let her US citizen children stay so they could be safe, since they have a right to be in the country. The agent refused and said the whole family would be going to Mexico.

— “March 31 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 31, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, U.S. Citizen or Resident

Late March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a woman whom Border Patrol expelled to Nogales though she had proof of being raped by her smugglers. The agent, she said, confiscated her medical document:

Border Patrol expelled a young Guatemalan woman to Nogales, Mexico last week despite the fact that she had been repeatedly raped by the guides that brought her across the border into the US. Her attackers threatened her life if she went to the authorities. One Border Patrol agent insinuated that the woman was lying about the attack, and tried to convince her not to undergo a forensic examination that would verify the abuse. When she showed paperwork from the hospital examination to a Border Patrol agent as proof of the attack, asking that he not send her back to Mexico, the Border Patrol agent confiscated the paperwork and did not return it to her.

— “March 31 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 31, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult

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

March 25, 2022

Activist Scott Nicol posted photographs of Cuban and Costa Rican vaccination cards discarded in a trash bag at a site near the border wall In Mission, Texas. The trash, left by Border Patrol agents, included personal belongings of asylum-seeking migrants who regularly turn themselves in at this site.

—”Scott Nicol @Scott_NicolTX on Twitter” (United States, Twitter, March 25, 2022) https://twitter.com/Scott_NicolTX/status/1507508896272949257.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Disregard of Public Health, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Costa Rica, Cuba

March 22, 2022

An article at the Border Chronicle covered “Veterans on Patrol,” a QAnon-affiliated citizen militia group in rural Arizona that has interdicted hundreds of unaccompanied children when they cross the border. While the militia turns the kids over to Border Patrol, its members “take the phone numbers of the children’s sponsors and, in some cases, confront the sponsors at their homes in the United States.”

Border Chronicle reporter Melissa del Bosque questioned why Border Patrol permits the militia group to carry out these activities, including leaving no presence but “Veterans on Patrol” at gaps in the border wall where children regularly cross.

—Melissa del Bosque, “’Humanitarians’ with Guns” (United States, The Border Chronicle, March 22, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/humanitarians-with-guns.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Vigilantism Tolerance or Collaboration

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

Early March, 2022

“Border Patrol continues to expel people into Nogales, Sonora at night under the pretext of public safety,” the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported.

Last weekend KBI staff were made aware that dozens of migrants were expelled to Nogales, Sonora around midnight.

This week a Honduran man reported that he was expelled to Nogales, MX with a group of migrants at around 10PM. At that time, there were no humanitarian services available. Since they did not know the city and had no money, the group was forced to sleep outside next to the train tracks.

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation

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

Victim Classification: Honduras, Single Adult

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

Early March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Honduran man expelled to Nogales by Border Patrol without most of his belongings:

A Honduran man expelled under Title 42 last week shared with KBI staff that he had fled threats in his hometown and then attempted to cross into the US to seek asylum. When Border Patrol detained him, they took most of his belongings, including the humanitarian VISA he had been granted in Mexico, and did not return it when they expelled him to Nogales, MX. He expressed concern that without a valid ID in Mexico, he would not be able to travel or access work, housing or public services.

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Honduras, Single Adult

Early March, 2022

“Numerous migrants arriving in Nogales in the last two weeks after being expelled reported that Border Patrol agents took their belongings and did not return them upon expulsions to Nogales, Sonora, México,” reported the Kino Border Initiative (KBI). “Migrants reported that Border Patrol agents did not return clothing, personal hygiene items, food, water, medicine, phones, backpacks, and personal documentation. Several migrants expressed that the loss of these items made survival at the border and travel to their next destination even more difficult.”

— “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:

March 11, 2022

A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Security Officer, requested by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, finds few examples of violent domestic extremism among the Department’s workforce (original link). It warns, however, that DHS lacks clear definitions, training, guidances, and procedures to detect and root out extremist behavior.

A “data call” among DHS components identified 35 allegations of potential violent extremist activity between fiscal year 2019 and the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. Upon further review, four of those incidents “involved active participation or support for violent extremist activity,” the rest were deemed either unsubstantiated or miscategorized. The report does not specify how many of these incidents, if any, involved DHS’s border agencies.

“Because of the challenges with identifying, categorizing, and tracking this information,” the report notes, “it is possible that the data call resulted in an under-reporting of the number of allegations made and investigations conducted.”

Domestic Violent Extremism Internal Review: Observations, Findings, and Recommendations (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Security Officer, March 11, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/Report%20to%20the%20Secretary%20of%20Homeland%20Security%20Domestic%20Violent%20Extremism%20Internal%20Review%20Observations%2C%20Findings%2C%20and%20Recommendations.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification:

March 2, 2022

Unnamed Border Patrol agents responded to Fox News with “anger and mockery” to President Joe Biden’s calls, in his March 1 State of the Union address, to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Very few people within CBP believe this administration will actually secure the border, they just do not believe in it,” one agent told Fox News Digital. “All of their actions, comments and practices are solely about pushing in as many illegal aliens as possible, not just those from the Americas but from around the world.”

Other agents were more blunt in their assessment of the president’s remarks.

“F—ing pandering 101, full of sh–,” one agent told Fox News.

“I laughed,” said another

Another said they didn’t even turn it on: “Figured it would be all lies and smoke…We’re losing so many agents, they’re fed up.”

“We all know he doesn’t care about secure borders,” another agent told Fox.

One agent cast doubt on the validity of asylum seekers’ claims, and leveled criticism at immigration judges.

“Immigration judges usually tend to follow the tendencies or intentions of their appointing administration, that means I and many other agents have little faith in them to actually follow immigration law,” they said. “The vast majority of these illegal aliens have no legitimate claims to asylum but administration-picked and taxpayer-funded lawyers will argue otherwise.  Unemployment, inability to buy groceries, domestic violence, bad schools and bad weather are not legitimate claims, period.”

— Adam Shaw, Bill Melugin, Peter Hasson, “Border Patrol Agents Don’t Buy Biden Pledge to Secure Border as They Deal With Migrant Crisis: ‘Full of S—‘” (Fox News, March 3, 2022) https://www.foxnews.com/politics/border-patrol-agents-bidens-pledge-secure-border-migrant-crisis.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

February, 2022

Human Rights Watch reported on CBP’s Title 42 expulsion of Adolfo H. and Gerardo C. (pseudonyms), a gay couple fleeing Cuba and El Salvador who had already “experienced extortion several times by Mexican immigration agents.”

US officials told the couple that Adolfo could stay and seek asylum in the United States because he is from Cuba but that his partner would be expelled, even though border officials had the authority to allow both men in. Instead, they gave them the option of being separated or of being expelled together. They said that while they were in custody, US officials told them to stop holding hands or touching one another.

CBP officers expelled both men back to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

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 Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Cuba, El Salvador, LGBTQ

Late February, 2022

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

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

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

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Colombia, Family Unit

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

Mid-February 2022

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child