59 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Conditions in Custody”

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 Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) met with about 4,515 unaccompanied minor migrant children at 12 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. “During these screenings,” reads KIND’s complaint, “minors reported numerous civil rights violations during their apprehension and detention by CBP.”

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

  • We received widespread reports of officers who woke up sleeping children, often in the early morning or middle of the night, by screaming at them, kicking them, hitting them, kicking the mats they were sleeping on, or pulling the mats out from under them. We also received reports of officers shoving children, grabbing and pulling them by the ear, arm, or clothing, and using intimidating body language.
  • children report having been so terrified by the violent and aggressive behavior of officers that they cried or were unable to sleep or eat. They describe feelings of extreme anxiety and sadness. Some have nightmares about their time in CBP detention and experience other psycho-somatic symptoms, such as shaking or crying, when recalling the harm they suffered.
  • a female minor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was 17 years old at the time she was detained for approximately 14 days. She states that she was treated very poorly by officials and that they woke her up every morning by kicking her.

— Carly Sessions, “Widespread infringement of the civil rights and civil liberties of Unaccompanied Noncitizen Children held in the custody of CBP: January – December 2021” (United States: Kids in Need of Defense, 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, Conditions in Custody, Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: Female, 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 Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) met with about 4,515 unaccompanied minor migrant children at 12 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. “During these screenings,” reads KIND’s complaint, “minors reported numerous civil rights violations during their apprehension and detention by CBP.”

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

  • children report having been so terrified by the violent and aggressive behavior of officers that they cried or were unable to sleep or eat. They describe feelings of extreme anxiety and sadness. Some have nightmares about their time in CBP detention and experience other psycho-somatic symptoms, such as shaking or crying, when recalling the harm they suffered.
  • Children described officers who yelled aggressively, used foul language, called them names, told them they were undeserving of help or respect, accused them of being criminals or lying, and threatened to deport them. Children report being called “cabron” (a–hole), “puta” (bitch or slut), “pendejo” (stupid), “mierda” (sh-t), “burro” (donkey, ass, or idiot), “cerdo” (pig), “waste of time,” “criminal,” and “liar.”
  • Many older children described being threatened and intimidated by officers who did not believe they were minors. For example, one girl who wishes to remain anonymous was 17 years old when officers detained her in August 2021. She was held in CBP detention for approximately five days. While in detention, she felt singled out and harassed by a particular officer who did not believe that she was a minor. The first time she met the officer, he grabbed her by the arm and pressured her to sign a document affirming that she was a minor. She encountered this officer again multiple times and felt threatened, scared, and intimidated every time. The officer called her a liar and threatened to throw her in jail and deport her. The officer claimed to have worked closely with the Guatemalan government for 10 years, which he felt qualified him to know whether she was a minor or an adult. The minor reports that she was not the only person targeted in this way. The officer seemed to think that anyone who was taller or heavier-set was an adult, and he called them liars and threatened to throw them in jail or deport them.
  • [Children] describe officers throwing their food or belongings on the floor, rather than directly handing these items to the children.
  • Some children report that officers denied them access to the bathroom when they needed it. Others report that officers got angry or humiliated the children when they asked to use the bathroom at a time the officer felt was inconvenient.
  • Abel, Cameron, and Mikayla [pseudonyms] are siblings. They were respectively 5, 6 and 15 years old when they were detained by CBP officers on or about March 18, 2021 in Texas. They spent approximately 16 days in detention. Officers believed that Mikayla was Abel and Cameron’s mother, rather than their sister, and they called her a liar when she said she was a minor. They tried to get her to say that she was an adult and that she was the mother of the boys, and eventually made her sign a document stating that she was a minor.… Mikayla also reports that one particular officer was very aggressive and threatening. She does not know his name but described him as a bald man in a green uniform. This particular officer terrified the children because he threatened to beat 6-year-old Cameron with a nightstick because he was lethargic as a result of his illness and did not want to leave a room when ordered to do so. He eventually lifted Cameron up by his T-shirt. The officer threatened to beat the children with a nightstick many times during their detention. He almost always yelled when he spoke to them, and he told the children that if they didn’t want to be treated the way they were being treated then they never should have come to the United States.

— Carly Sessions, “Widespread infringement of the civil rights and civil liberties of Unaccompanied Noncitizen Children held in the custody of CBP: January – December 2021” (United States: Kids in Need of Defense, 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, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody

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

Victim Classification: Female, 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 Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) met with about 4,515 unaccompanied minor migrant children at 12 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. “During these screenings,” reads KIND’s complaint, “minors reported numerous civil rights violations during their apprehension and detention by CBP.”

KIND’s complaint cites the account of a 17-year-old minor who “experienced gender-based shame because officers yelled at her to leave a bathroom, but she did not have time to finish taking care of her needs before several male officers came into the restroom. This experience left her feeling humiliated and exposed.”

— Carly Sessions, “Widespread infringement of the civil rights and civil liberties of Unaccompanied Noncitizen Children held in the custody of CBP: January – December 2021” (United States: Kids in Need of Defense, 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, Conditions in Custody, Sexual Assault or Harassment

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

Victim Classification: Female, 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 Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) met with about 4,515 unaccompanied minor migrant children at 12 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. “During these screenings,” reads KIND’s complaint, “minors reported numerous civil rights violations during their apprehension and detention by CBP.”

“Approximately 455 minors, or 10.6% of the minors screened, indicated that they lacked access to sufficient food, water, medical attention, or other basic necessities while in detention,” reads KIND’s complaint. It cites the following examples of denied medical care:

  • Many children reported having symptoms such as fever, ear infection, nausea, stomach pain, sore throat, cough, chills, headaches, and/or body aches while detained, but they were denied access to adequate medical attention when they reported these symptoms to officers. Instead, officers regularly told minors to drink more water or gave the children cough drops or allergy medicine, rather than allowing them to speak with a trained medical professional.
  • One minor, who felt feverish and had a very sore, swollen throat, remembers asking to see a doctor. Officers told her that she could only see a doctor “if she was dying.”
  • Another minor, who was a teenager mother, reports begging officers to take her baby to the doctor after her baby became very ill. The officers first told her that she shouldn’t have left her country if she didn’t want her baby to get sick, and that there would be no “preferential treatment” for her. When the baby’s condition worsened, officers finally agreed to take him to the hospital, where doctors told the mother that the baby had a bacterial infection, likely caused by food he had eaten in detention.
  • After her apprehension [during which she suffered abrasions and bruises], Debra [pseudonym, a 15-year-old minor] was taken to a detention facility and spoke with a medical provider for 2 minutes or less, but they told her there was nothing they could do for her injuries. They did not clean her injuries or provide her with any bandages.
  • Mikayla [pseudonym of a 15-year-old minor] shared that on approximately the 5th day of their detention Cameron, Abel, Mikayla, and other detained children became very sick after eating rice and tortillas that they believed were spoiled because they tasted sour. Other food they ate tasted under-cooked. Mikayla reports that they had stomach cramps, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. She vomited 2 or 3 times. Her brothers were sicker than she was and vomited multiple times a day, multiple days in a row. Mikayla alerted CBP officers at least 5 times that they were sick, but the officers did nothing to help them. Officers told her they did not have medication or medical personnel available to help the children. Mikayla remembers that they said, “This is not a hospital, and we are not doctors. We cannot help you.” Mikayla asked if they could eat anything else instead of the food which had made them ill. Officers replied that they would either eat what was given to them or not eat at all, and that it was not their concern whether the children ate or not.”

— Carly Sessions, “Widespread infringement of the civil rights and civil liberties of Unaccompanied Noncitizen Children held in the custody of CBP: January – December 2021” (United States: Kids in Need of Defense, 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, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: Female, 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 Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) met with about 4,515 unaccompanied minor migrant children at 12 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. “During these screenings,” reads KIND’s complaint, “minors reported numerous civil rights violations during their apprehension and detention by CBP.”

KIND’s complaint cites the following troubling anecdotes about children’s conditions in CBP custody:

  • Children described being given food that was frozen, undercooked, or spoiled and therefore inedible. Other children report becoming nauseated or vomiting after eating the food.
  • one minor, who was detained for several weeks, remembers that there were never enough toothbrushes for each child, so they had to take turns deciding who would be able to brush their teeth.
  • Some children report that officers denied them access to the bathroom when they needed it. Others report that officers got angry or humiliated the children when they asked to use the bathroom at a time the officer felt was inconvenient.
  • Nathaniel [pseudonym] was 17 years old when CBP officers detained him in Texas on or about March 3, 2021. What he remembers most about his time in CBP detention is that it was extremely cold, that he barely slept, and that he did not receive sufficient food, so he was almost always hungry. He thought he would only be there for 3 days, but he was there for approximately 12. He was only permitted to shower 2 or 3 times while he was detained. Officers would only let him sleep for short durations of time before they would wake him up to conduct roll call, speak with children, or clean the cell. There was not enough space in the cell for everyone to sleep at the same time. He says that the other children cried a lot, because the officers were not nice to them, but he did not want to elaborate on what he meant because he was afraid to share further details.
  • Mikayla [pseudonym of a 15-year-old minor] further reports that during their 16-day detention, she and her brothers were only permitted to shower and change their clothes approximately 3 times, and that they were only permitted to brush their teeth twice. They were held with approximately 100 children, in a cell that Mikayla estimates could only fit 25 children comfortably.… It was difficult to sleep because the rooms were so crowded, the lights were almost always on, and the officers woke the children regularly to clean the cell. Furthermore, there was not sufficient space for all the children to lie down at the same time, and children quarreled over a very limited number of sleeping mats available.

— Carly Sessions, “Widespread infringement of the civil rights and civil liberties of Unaccompanied Noncitizen Children held in the custody of CBP: January – December 2021” (United States: Kids in Need of Defense, 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, Conditions in Custody

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

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child

October 13, 2021

The Central American website ContraCorriente published a Honduran family’s account of being held in Border Patrol custody in south Texas, then expelled on a flight to southern Mexico under the Title 42 pandemic policy.

For Fernando and his family, the American dream had ended just as it was beginning. As he tells us, they and about 150 other people were forced to walk from the border to the city of McAllen, Texas. They walked for about two hours and then boarded a bus that took them to the famous “hieleras” [“freezers”], as the migrants call the detention centers, whose characteristic is that they are very cold. They remained there for four days.

During their stay in the “hieleras” they had to bathe at 2 a.m. Fernando says that his girls got sick with respiratory problems. They were fed flour tortillas and lettuce. Before entering the detention center they were asked for the contact and address of the people who were waiting for them in the great country to the north. “Supposedly they were going to call them to pick us up, but from then on there was nothing, they kept us in the hielera for four days without knowing anything,” he told us.

On Wednesday, October 13, Fernando and his family were called to a room where there were other people. He’s assured that they even called his relatives, and he thought he was going to be reunited with them. They were put on a bus, taken to the airport in McAllen, and once on the plane Fernando knew something was wrong. They asked the immigration officials what was going on and they answered that they did not know: “When I least expected it, the plane landed and we saw that the airport said welcome to Villa Hermosa” [in southern Mexico].

Once they landed in the aforementioned city, jurisdiction of the State of Tabasco, the migrants demanded to know why they were left on Mexican soil if they were not originally from that country. At the airport they were picked up by Mexican immigration and boarded onto a new bus, in which they traveled to Corinto, on the border of Guatemala and Honduras. “They brought us here on bread and water,” says Fernando, touching his stomach. “They tricked us because we were supposedly going to our family, they even called them. Now they were surprised when I told them I was in Honduras. I was able to call because they gave us back our phones,” he adds.

— Allan Bu, “En la Madrugada, e Ignorados por el Estado, Llegan a Corinto Miles de Hondurenos Deportados” (Honduras: ContraCorriente, October 15, 2021) https://contracorriente.red/2021/10/15/en-la-madrugada-e-ignorados-por-el-estado-llegan-a-corinto-miles-de-hondurenos-deportados.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

September, 2021

A report from Human Rights First quoted a Somali asylum seeker who spent weeks in Border Patrol custody, then failed a credible fear interview “despite apparent eligibility for asylum and redesignation of Somalia for TPS”:

“Border Patrol took me to detention . . . it was the worst nightmare that had ever happened to me. They wouldn’t give me a toothbrush for 18 days. It was harsh . . . then I had my credible fear interview around a month later . . . after all that I have gone through, they just give you one interview. After that interview, you are done . . . they deported me in September 2021.”

“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): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Single Adult, Somalia

September 2021

Human Rights First reports:

In September 2021, DHS expelled an asylum-seeking Haitian family to Haiti after holding them for days in a freezing cell without sufficient food. DHS separated the family from an adult brother who had crossed into Del Rio, Texas with them where they had attempted to seek asylum together based on political persecution. The family remains in hiding in Haiti, terrified their persecutors will find them, according to Blaine Bookey from the UC Hastings Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

— 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): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, DHS

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti

Late September 2021

“A Haitian mother expelled in late September 2021 begged U.S. officers to remove her handcuffs to enable her to comfort her crying young daughter on the plane ride,” read a Human Rights First report, citing Blaine Bookey from the U.C. Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

— 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): Conditions in Custody

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti

Mid-September, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a 16-year-old Nicaraguan child from his parents near Eagle Pass, Texas.

In September 2021, DHS separated a 16-year-old Nicaraguan child from his parents when the family sought asylum at the border near Eagle Pass, Texas, and jailed him alone in adult ICE detention facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana for one-and-a-half months. CBP officers ripped up the boy’s birth certificate, interrogated him about his age, threatened to imprison him for 10 years, and forced him to sign a document stating that he was 18. At the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, ICE held the boy in an isolation cell for 18 days. He told Telemundo News: “To spend 24 hours in there, locked up, with the doors locked, without going out. It was terrible. There was no hope of leaving that place.”

Noticias Telemundo described the 16-year-old’s treatment at the hands of the Border Patrol agents who apprehended him.

They doubted that they were a family. The son burst into tears, as he recounts. “They started telling me ‘tell us your real age.’ And for about twenty times I repeated the same thing: 16 years old, 16 years old. They got mad at me and told me that they were going to hold me and my family in prison for ten years, and that they were going to deport me.”

“Angel” says he signed a rudimentary, makeshift piece of paper the agents handed him, on which they only wrote his name and that he was 18 years old. He says he felt intimidated and forced to sign by the two agents’ shouting and threats.

…The mother, Luz Zelaya, says that she, meanwhile, had her son’s birth certificate torn up. It is a printed document stating that the minor was born in a municipality in northern Nicaragua in 2005, issued by local authorities days before his departure at the end of August 2021.

“This is no good’. And ra, ra, he tore it to pieces and put it in the trash. ‘You’re lying to me. I’m not dumb,’ he tells me,” recalls Zelaya, a 29-year-old mother who had her son almost as a child and has been with her current husband, who is not Angel’s biological father, for more than a decade. “We never saw him again.”

The minor was detained for a few days in Border Patrol custody in Texas, along with some 80 adult men, in a room where “you had to stand up, you couldn’t even sleep on your stomach,” as he describes it. From there, he was shackled by his hands, feet and waist to be put on a plane bound for an ICE detention center for single adults, Adams County Detention Center, in Mississippi.

“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.

— Damià Bonmatí, Belisa Morillo, “Aislado en una prisión con solo 16 años: la odisea de un menor que fue separado de sus papás en la frontera” (United States: Noticias Telemundo, December 15, 2021) https://www.telemundo.com/noticias/noticias-telemundo/inmigracion/separacion-bajo-el-gobierno-biden-asi-fue-la-odisea-de-un-menor-de-16-rcna8638.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Confiscation of Documents, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Nicaragua

September 14, 2021

The DHS Inspector General completed an unpublished report, obtained in part and revealed in February 2022 by ProPublica and El Paso Matters, sharing findings about the May 2019 in-custody death of Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez (original link). As the journalistic outlets put it, the victim, a 16-year-old unaccompanied Guatemalan migrant, “died of the flu after writing on the floor of his cell” in the Weslaco, Texas Border Patrol station.

Hernández had a 103-degree fever, tested positive for influenza, and a nurse practitioner had instructed agents in writing “that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.” Only one medical staff person was on overnight duty at the Weslaco Station, which was being used as a makeshift sick ward and had “60-70” flu patients among 210 ill detainees at the time. Agents logged regular “welfare checks” on the boy, but video footage of his cell showed no evidence of checks during a period of nearly four and a half hours.

The log entries were false, the Inspector-General’s report determined. The lead agent told Inspector General investigators that he made hourly checks of the cell, but

added that at that time, it was impossible for him to conduct welfare checks on 300 to 350 detainees every hour. According to [redacted] common practice, Team Leads check the “select all” tab in the [redacted] system and press enter, reporting all detainees received an hourly welfare check.

“Falsifying federal records to impede administration of an agency’s function is a crime,” ProPublica and El Paso Matters point out. “But the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas declined to prosecute anyone in Hernandez’s death, the report said.” The report did not specify whether anyone involved in Hernández’s case had been disciplined. CBP “declined to comment on whether any agents have faced discipline stemming from Hernandez’s death or whether any changes had been made as a result of the inspector general report,” noting that it is continuing an internal investigation of the nearly three-year-old case.

On July 20, 2021, the DHS Inspector-General had reported that, in 98 cases examined of ill people in custody, “CBP could not always demonstrate staff conducted required medical screenings or consistent welfare checks” (original link).

Report of Investigation, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez-Vasquez, U.S. Border Patrol Weslaco Station, Weslaco, Texas (Washington: DHS Office of Inspector General, September 14, 2021) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21196072-dhs-oig-report-carlos-hernandez-vasquez.

— Robert Moore, “Internal Investigation Confirms Border Patrol Failures Leading Up to a 16-Year-Old’s Death on the Floor of His Cell” (ProPublica and El Paso Matters, February 8, 2022) https://elpasomatters.org/2022/02/08/internal-investigation-confirms-border-patrol-failures-leading-up-to-a-16-year-olds-death-on-his-cell-floor/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed, Under OPR Investigation, Unknown

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition, Unaccompanied Child

August 2021

“In August 2021, DHS subjected three Nicaraguan political dissidents to a lateral expulsion flight after they sought protection near McAllen, Texas,” reads a Human Rights First report.

DHS officers verbally abused them, threatening to release dogs to attack them. The officers woke the men at 1:00 am, handcuffed them, and forced them to stand for more than two hours before the expulsion flight. The officers lied to the men telling them that they would be sent to California and permitted to pursue their asylum cases, but instead expelled them to Tijuana. From there, Mexican immigration officials transported them to Mexico’s southern border and attempted to deport them to Guatemala, but Guatemalan immigration authorities refused to accept them, leaving them stranded in southern Mexico, according to Anaís Catalina, an advocate assisting them.

— 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): Rio Grande Valley, San Diego

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Threat of Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult

July 30, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of a Honduran family while in custody at Border Patrol’s “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) facility under a bridge in Mission, Texas, and their subsequent lateral expulsion via Nogales, Arizona.

A Honduran man, wife and daughter entered the United States and were detained in [across from] Reynosa. They told the agents who detained them that they wanted to seek asylum. The agents said “no,” that there was nothing the agents could do for them; however, the agents asked the family to write down their names.

The family was taken under a bridge, where they were told to sleep outdoors, on the concrete. They were not given food or water for 10 hours. There were several hundred other migrants under the bridge with no access to running water. All the migrants were confined in a small space where they could touch each other. There were three toilets (port-o-potties) for several hundred migrants. There were no facilities for them to bathe under the bridge.

On the fourth day, the family was flown to Tucson where they were finally able to wash themselves, though they were detained there for four days and only allowed to wash that one time. In Tucson, they asked again to be considered for asylum but were again told no. The agents also shouted at the immigrants asking them to shut their kids up.

The agents told the family that since they came to the US illegally, they had no right to asylum, and that they should attempt to seek asylum at the nearby port of entry. From there, they were expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed an August 11, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). As of August 17, KBI had not yet received a response.

KBI and NETWORK recorded a similar account, for July 23, 2021, of a Honduran family that spent three days at TOPS before being laterally expelled via Nogales.

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

July 23, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of a Honduran family while in custody at Border Patrol’s “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) facility under a bridge in Mission, Texas, and their subsequent lateral expulsion via Nogales, Arizona.

A Honduran man, his wife, and daughter entered the United States near McAllen, Texas where they were detained. They were kept under an overpass with hundreds of other migrants. The agents took their temperatures and biometric data.

There was a medical tent, but the family could not get medical attention. Their infant daughter became sick while they were there. Although they asked for medical attention for their baby, the agents refused to provide any.

They were held there for three days. This family was exposed to the elements and went without basic necessities like running water, beds to sleep in, etc. They were only fed twice a day.

Border Patrol would periodically call names to board buses; if you missed your name, you had to wait until next time they came to call your name. Because of this, people chose to remain awake rather than risk missing their chance to leave. The father recalls the brutal sleep deprivation this caused.

After three days the Border Patrol transferred them to a facility. At the facility the agents confiscated all their belongings (clothes, medicine, diapers, phone chargers, etc.). They were not given anything to eat at the facility for the whole day. The father was temporarily separated from his wife and daughter and placed in a separate holding facility with about fifty others, who had been at the facility for some time.

Eventually, the agents took down details of the family members they had in the US and told them they could leave once their family members had paid for their travel. This was a lie. The family was instead taken to the airport and flown to Tucson, AZ and then expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed an August 3, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 6, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

KBI and NETWORK recorded a similar account, for July 30, 2021, of a Honduran family that spent three days at TOPS before being laterally expelled via Nogales.

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s experience with her family while in Border Patrol custody in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman, her sister (19), brother, and son entered the United States and were all detained by border patrol. At that time the agent was very nice to them and gave them water and took them to a Border Patrol station. They were subsequently moved to Tucson.

There, CBP processed the sister first, and a female CBP agent reached into her sister’s shirt and grabbed sister’s documents from her bra.

Her brother was separated from them, and she did not have any information about his whereabouts as of July 10. She was never told why they separated her brother from her.

She was also then separated from her sister, who CBP says tried to escape them while they were walking in the desert. The woman told agents several times that her sister had not tried to escape apprehension and that they had been together the whole time.

The officers told her “You are not in your country. We are in charge here.” In the facility, the staff at the station refused to give them blankets. In the early morning, she was reunited with her sister on a bus.

She tried several times to tell them she was seeking asylum, but no one listened. CBP kept telling them that this was their country, and they were in charge. The woman, her sister, and son were expelled to Nogales, Sonora in the early morning.

KBI filed a July 23, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 5, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, August 2021. <https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Sexual Assault or Harassment

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s experience with her children while in Border Patrol custody in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman with her four children crossed into the United States with a big group and encountered a Border Patrol agent in a vehicle. That agent was very nice to them, gave them water and said they could have whatever they needed. He called for more vehicles to carry them all, and they were transferred to a Border Patrol facility that was very cold. Then they were put on buses to Tucson.

At the Tucson border facility, the woman approached an agent asking how they should apply for asylum and informing him that her son has a medical condition and needs medical care. She showed him the documents (a diagnosis, x-rays, etc.) to prove that her son was in need and that he needed surgery within the next two months. The agent took the documents and threw them in the trash. When she went to retrieve them from the trash, he took them again and told her “they belong in the trash.” When she protested, he became angry and told her to go away and gave her a sleeping mat. The mat was soaking wet so that she could not use it. She never got her documents back.

Hours later, she and the children were expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed a July 15, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 6, CRCL emailed that “they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, Medical Condition

July 5, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed a Guatemalan family’s conditions in Border Patrol custody while seeking, without success, to seek asylum in Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman and her two young daughters entered the United States through the desert and encountered a Border Patrol agent. They were detained and moved to a facility with cold rooms. Then they were transferred to Tucson.

There, she told an agent that she had injured her foot while walking in the desert and needed medical attention. The agent agreed, but then she walked away and never came back. She was never given any medical attention.

They were made to sit in the chairs at the Tucson facility; the children could not sleep. At the facility, they were forced to take off any extra clothing and allowed to wear only a t-shirt and pants. Her daughter was shivering. They asked for blankets but were given only one small one many hours later. She tried to tell agents she wanted to seek asylum, but no one listened to her.

The next morning the family was expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed a July 23, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On August 5, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, Medical Condition

April 25, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the apprehension and expulsion into Mexico of a Guatemalan woman, who said she was fleeing “threats from an organized crime group that had also physically beat her,” and her two-year-old son.

They were apprehended by CBP in the desert and transported to a facility. They were processed but never asked why she came or if she feared going back. After that, she was transported to another facility in a crowded, hot, suffocating bus with other migrants. The migrants were finding it hard to breathe, but the bus was travelling at high speed and agents could not hear them knocking for help. After 30 minutes, they got the agents’ attention, and the agents turned on the air. Once they arrived at the next facility, they were held in a very cold room. Some of the women in the facility were called into an office to be interviewed privately. This woman was not. Agents never inquired why she had come to the United States. She didn’t realize she was being expelled until she was already travelling in CBP transport to the border. She and her son were expelled the same day to Mexico and given no information as to why they were being expelled.

KBI filed a May 1, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On May 6, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint, recorded it in their database, and no further actions would be taken. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, No Further Action

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

April 2, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK recounted a Guatemalan asylum seeker’s experience in custody in Border Patrol’s outpost at Sasabe, Arizona, and station in Tucson, Arizona.

A Guatemalan woman crossed into the United States walking through the desert. She became ill and fainted. When she came to, a Border Patrol Agent was standing over her. She was taken to an outpost and processed.

There, she told the agents about the violence she had faced, and that she had proof of threats she had received. The agent said he didn’t speak Spanish but that she should take it up with officers at the next station. In Tucson, she was made to remove her outerwear (her jacket and two shirts and a pair of pants) even though the facility was cold.

She was sent into room with a TV, and on the TV screen it said that if anyone was experiencing violence, they should speak to an agent. She then called the agents and said she wanted to apply for asylum. They told her that was unavailable because of the pandemic. The agents started yelling at her that she should have gone to a port of entry if she wanted asylum, and that she was breaking the law by coming this way. They said to her that she was doing what the mafia does, crossing the border illegally.

Additionally, officers threw the name of her abuser in her face and taunted her, telling her they were going to call him. She felt humiliated by the agent’s actions. By this time, she had had three separate agents decline to help her apply for asylum. She was expelled to Mexico the next morning.

As of 8/17/2021, KBI has received no response to this complaint [filed on June 15, 2021].

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

Victim Classification: Domestic Violence Victim, Female, Guatemala, Single Adult

March 23, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK recounted Border Patrol agents’ refusal to allow a Mexican migrant in custody to report a drug-related crime.

A Mexican man entered the United States when individuals associated with organized crime demanded he carry a backpack full of drugs into the United States and threatened him with a razor. When he refused, they beat him.

Once the Mexican man regained consciousness, he turned himself in to Border Patrol. He told agents what happened to him, where Border Patrol could find the drugs and the men who assaulted him who belonged to a criminal gang. Still, the agents kept the man in the vehicle the whole day, picking up other immigrants and giving him only water to drink.

Once they came to the CBP facility and he was processed, he repeated what had happened to him. The CBP agent there laughed and asked if he wanted to file a police report. When he said yes, the agent said it would take too long.

He was never given an opportunity to express his fears about returning to Mexico or give information about the crime that had been committed against him. He was never given medical attention while in CBP custody and was left alone in a cell for long stretches of time despite his weakened state. He was soon expelled back to Mexico.

KBI filed a March 29, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On April 23, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

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

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

March 7, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK detailed the experience of a Cuban asylum seeker in Border Patrol custody in Yuma, Arizona and Campo (Pine Valley), California.

A Cuban man and his wife crossed into the United States and were detained. He was searched and their documents were confiscated. The man was separated from his wife, even though his wife told the agents they were together.

He was transferred to Campo BP Station in California, and when he was being transferred he was told he would be reunited with his wife at the detention center. While in detention, he was not allowed to shower for five days, and the lights were always kept on.

There, a border patrol agent interviewed him in Spanish. The agent asked him about his relatives but did not ask anything about asylum. The man asked if he could present his case. The CBP agent said no, as that was for a courtroom with a lawyer. The man asked why the agent didn’t ask him why he left Cuba, and the agent still said no. After five days, they transported the man to expel him, very early in the morning.

The man says he was disoriented but once he heard he was being expelled he said he can’t leave without his wife. He was told his wife would be joining him soon. This was not true. He was not reunited with his wife and was expelled to Tijuana, Baja California in the early morning hours. A week later, he tried to cross again at Yuma as his wife was still in CBP custody. He was then expelled to Nogales.

KBI filed a March 24, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On April 23, CRCL emailed that “they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): San Diego, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

Early March, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported about a Guatemalan mother and daughter’s difficult experience in Border Patrol custody before being expelled:

A young Guatemalan mother arrived at KBI with her 3-year-old daughter this week after Border Patrol expelled them to Mexico under Title 42. Her daughter suffers from stomach issues, and although the mother pleaded with a Border Patrol agent to keep her yogurt and medicine, the agent threw it in the trash. They were detained around 9PM and expelled the next day around 3PM. During those 18 hours, BP only provided them with a few crackers and juice. The mother said she felt dizzy when they were expelled to Mexico because they had not eaten. They also suffered cold during the time they were detained because BP agents confiscated all their sweatshirts and coats. By the time they were expelled, the 3-year-old had soiled her diaper, but BP agents had confiscated the diapers the mother brought with her. They refused to give her a diaper despite the fact that the girl’s pants were soaked through. One BP agent repeatedly yelled at them and said, “I don’t know what you’re doing in this country.”

— “March 4 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 4, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

February 28, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK reproduced a Honduran woman’s account of the treatment that she, her daughter, her neighbor, and her neighbor’s daughter received in Border Patrol custody in Arizona, before being expelled into Mexico.

They were taken to a border facility which had other immigrants. The agents took the fingerprints in a rough manner, which caused her daughter to cry out in Spanish that her mom was good and the police should not take her away. The agents then got angry and insulted them, calling them “rats.” Their belongings were confiscated (bags, clothes, diapers, formula for babies). They did not give them water when they asked for some because they were thirsty from walking. Three hours later, they gave them juice and crackers. Despite the facility being cold, they were not permitted to put on any outerwear they brought with them.

The next day, when they were being transported out of the facility and the woman asked for their jackets, an agent threatened to shoot them; saying “you should have thought about that before you brought your daughter here” and “Don’t move! I’ve got a gun and I am not afraid to use it.” Her daughter’s lips were cracked because of the cold. While they were being transferred, they were kept out in the cold while the agents went to a place with heat. When she asked for a new diaper for her daughter, the agent denied her this. Her daughter went 18 hours in a soiled diaper. They were expelled to Nogales.

On 3/31/2021, three weeks after the initial complaint was filed [March 5], KBI received an email from CRCL which stated, “CRCL has reviewed the information you provided, in which Ms. Ramos Euceda alleged that she and her minor daughter were mistreated by US Border Patrol (USBP) agents following their apprehension by USBP and experienced inadequate conditions of detention at the Nogales Border Patrol Station while in USBP custody. Based on information we received from other sources, CRCL is investigating allegations of violations of civil rights and civil liberties in the Tucson Border Patrol Sector, including Nogales. CRCL plans to conduct an onsite investigation of the Tucson Sector later this year, and we will consider the allegations and concerns you sent us on behalf of Ms. Ramos Euceda.” No additional details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Non-Return of Belongings, Threat of Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

Late February, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A young Salvadoran man traveling with his sister arrived at our migrant center after being expelled under Title 42 last week. While he was in CBP custody, a Border Patrol agent yelled at the group he was traveling with: “Don’t move, you “M—- F—-rs.” The agent threatened that if they so much as moved, he would release the dog to “tear them into sh–.” While detained by CBP, they did not receive any food, and were not allowed to go to the bathroom until they repeatedly insisted. They were expelled to Nogales, Sonora at 12AM, when the Mexican immigration office was closed and there was no one there to receive them, so they slept outside the INM office in the cold. When they arrived at KBI, they had gone about 3 days without eating.

— “March 4 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 4, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Food or Water, Threat of Violence

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit

January 23, 2021

As migration, most of it asylum-seeking, increased in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, Border Patrol began keeping hundreds of families for days at a time under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, Texas, while they awaited processing. The ACLU described the outdoor site as “buried deep on federal property and out of public view.”

The March 24, 2021 Los Angeles Times reported, “Up to 600 families were assembled in recent days at the site under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, Texas, sleeping in the dirt, exposed to the elements, without much food or access to medical care.”

“We asked them why we were there for so long,” Karen Coello, 24, of Honduras, who had been kept at the site for three days with her 5-year-old daughter, Valeria, said Tuesday after being released to a local shelter. “All they told us was, ‘That’s your problem.’”

Border Patrol chose the location for this “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) “so that agents could easily expel eligible migrants to Mexico via the bridge” using the Title 42 pandemic authority, according to the Times.

The ACLU reported on a visit to the TOPS site months later:

In late June 2021, we joined a brief official tour of the Anzalduas TOPS, during which Border Patrol representatives described the site as being used exclusively to hold families with children under 7 years old. Though we were not allowed to speak with those detained there, what we observed was deeply concerning.

The temperature was in the 90s. For the dozens of children and adults detained outdoors in the heat, only a fan and a set of overhead sprinklers provided plainly inadequate cooling. At a meeting in May, a Border Patrol representative justified holding families in the South Texas summer heat by egregiously claiming that the conditions are preferable to many migrants, who Border Patrol described as “not used to air conditioning.”

In addition to having no basic temperature controls, the TOPS has a bare-bones structure that lacks other minimal protections. Families are funneled through a series of outdoor areas surrounded by plastic fencing. We observed them being held in an area with hard benches and gravel as the only places to rest or sleep.

Border Patrol told us there is no medical staff on site beyond emergency medical personnel, and the nearest paved road to get to medical aid is a five to 10 minute drive away. Border Patrol has even given us conflicting answers about what, if any, detention standards apply to the site. This is particularly troubling since detention standards mandate a “reasonable and comfortable” temperature for those detained — contrary to the very design of the TOPS.

Just last week in the Rio Grande Valley, we interviewed recently released families with small children who reported that thousands of people were being held at the site. Every family reported spending two or three days under the bridge. Mothers shared that Border Patrol denied their pleas for medical care for sick children and that they experienced miserable conditions in high temperatures.

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described the experience of two Honduran families that each spent three days in custody at TOPS in July 2021.

In January 2022 report on a July 2021 visit the Rio Grande Valley sector, the DHS Inspector-General noted that TOPS did not meet detention standards “but lessened overcrowding and health risks for detainees” (original link). The report found that “water, snacks, and food for babies and children were readily available.”

— Shaw Drake, Kate Huddleston, “Border Patrol Must Stop Holding People in an Inhumane Outside Pen Under a Highway in South Texas” (El Paso: ACLU of Texas, August 9, 2021) https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/border-patrol-must-stop-holding-people-in-an-inhumane-outside-pen-under-a-highway-in-south-texas/.

— Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Border Patrol holds migrant families for days under a south Texas bridge” (Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2021) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-03-24/texas-migrants-border-bridge.

Rio Grande Valley Area Border Patrol Struggles with High Volumes of Detainees and Cases of Prolonged Detention but Has Taken Consistent Measures to Improve Conditions in Facilities, Report OIG-22-22 (Washington: DHS Office of Inspector-General, January 27, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-02/OIG-22-22-Feb22.pdf.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: