17 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Denial of Food or Water”

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,” notes KIND’s complaint. “Many children describe going hungry because they received meager portions of food, often described as ‘snacks,’ only once or twice a day. Some describe missing meal distribution because they were in the bathroom; others, being denied water for several hours after asking for it.”

— 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, Denial of Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: 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.

Between January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The Florence Project’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel denying food or water to children in custody:

  • One child reported being held for ten days and receiving little water even though the child kept asking for more. CBP officers swore at the child and called the child a “criminal.”
  • A 16-year-old child was detained for six days in poor conditions and lacked adequate food. The child reported stomach pains from the food the child received and was not given medical attention when it was requested.
  • One child reported that the food provided made the child sick with a headache. When the child examined the wrapper of the burritos served by CBP, they were expired.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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 Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: 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.

Between 2019 and 2021, attorneys from Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) interviewed approximately 12,731 unaccompanied migrant children at Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities. The organization’s complaint includes numerous examples from 2021 and 2022 of mistreatment of children while in CBP custody.

“13% of children reported lack of food and/or water,” reads AI Justice’s complaint. “Children reported that the food provided was insufficient, malnourishing, and at times, inedible due to it being spoiled or raw.” The complaint cites the following examples:

  • K.G.C., 15, reported only receiving bread despite being detained 10 days.
  • J.H.M., 9, reported receiving raw ham and burgers containing raw meat.
  • J.E.A., 15, reported being thirsty and the only access to water being right a by a bathroom with dirty water so he worried about drinking water from there. He also reported being hungry and having only been fed a sandwich.

— Jennifer Anzardo, Maite García, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Consistent Failure to Comply with the Terms of the Flores Settlement Agreement and Their Own Standards on the Transport, Escort, Detention and Search of Unaccompanied Children” (United States: Americans for Immigrant Justice, 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 Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

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

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

“ImmDef has encountered 172 children who were not given adequate food and water,” reads the organization’s complaint, which includes the following examples:

  • R.M.M. is a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala who was detained in CBP custody for eight days, during two of which he received no food, causing him to experience head pains and stomach problems.
  • L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador who only received a single meal consisting of cold, rotten food each day she was held in CBP custody.
  • M.V.P. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] reported that she did not eat during her time at the detention center because the burritos given to the children smelled spoiled. She was given only small amounts of water.

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

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

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

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

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

Mid-September, 2021

According to Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance, during the September 2021 mass migration event in Del Rio, Texas, CBP provided “extremely limited access to food and water. “In the initial days of the crisis, CBP personnel arranged a minimal number of service stations in the encampment and began providing a small bread roll and one bottle of water per person, per day. Individuals were required to wait in line, often for over an hour.”

As U.S. officials began handing out food and water, one Haitian man waited in line with hundreds of others to receive a bottle of water and a piece of bread. As he waited for food, he observed that the rations were not enough to sustain him and his family. He also saw how officials distributing the food taunted the asylum seekers by throwing water bottles at them. He described the experience:

“It was humiliating. It felt like at home how you would throw food for chickens on the floor. That’s how they treated us. It felt like they did enough so we wouldn’t die but no more than that. It felt like a nightmare.” [150]

The RFK-HBA report finds that the lack of access to clean water forced many Haitians in Del Rio to drink from the Rio Grande, which is not potable, sickening many.

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment (United States: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 29, 2022) https://rfkhr.imgix.net/asset/Del-Rio-Report.pdf.

Footnote from above:

[150]: Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, No. 1:21-CV-03317 (D.D.C.) (filed Dec. 20, 2021), https://i com/data/documenttools/hba-v-biden/a8106eacd7c45afe/full.pdf.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Food or Water

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Single Adult

August 2021

“In August 2021,” a Human Rights First report documented, “DHS expelled Cynthia, a 21-year-old pregnant Honduran woman to Mexico, without providing her water or medical attention after she had begged for something to drink and to see a doctor for stomach pain.” The case is mentioned briefly in the Texas Observer, which identified Border Patrol as the expelling agency. At a Catholic migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, “doctors administered antibiotics for Cynthia’s infection.”

— 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.

— Arianna Flores, “Border Patrol Ignored Migrants’ Pleas for Medical Help” (Texas: Public Health Watch, The Texas Observer, October 14, 2021) https://www.texasobserver.org/migrants-say-border-patrol-agents-ignored-pleas-for-medical-help/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Honduras, Medical Condition, Pregnancy, Single Adult

August 1, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described Border Patrol agents’ violent apprehension of a group of six migrants in Arizona.

A Guatemalan man in a group of six entered the United States and encountered Border Patrol agents. One of the agents pushed one of the men down with a knee on his back. Another man from the group was running, and the dog the agents brought with them attacked him and knocked him face down into a cactus. One of the spines penetrated near his eye, causing his face to bleed. When the man with eye injury asked for help, the agents said no, and that this is what happens to people who come here.

An agent grabbed the Guatemalan man who filed this complaint by the back of the neck and shoved him. The agent lunged to try to shove him again; when he ducked down the agent kept going forward and hurt himself on the cactus spines. Angered by this, the agent grabbed the Guatemalan man by the neck. The man said he felt like he was being choked. The Guatemalan man was injured as he had cactus spines stuck in his legs. He was not allowed to take them out until the next day.

The Guatemalan man’s brother-in-law was also in the group. He was dehydrated and vomiting. As he lay on the ground, begging for water, an agent put his foot on the man’s back and then kneeled on him. It was not until they arrived at a temporary outpost nearly two hours later that they got water.

The group was expelled to Nogales, Sonora the next morning, where Kino then took them to the hospital.

KBI filed an August 4, 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, 2021, KBI had not yet received a response.

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 of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition, Single Adult

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

Early June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A man arriving at our center reported watching from a distance as Border Patrol agents emptied the water bottles belonging to the apprehended members of his group. Dehydrated, he continued walking in the desert alone until he encountered another group of Border Patrol agents who physically assaulted him and mocked his dehydrated state, refusing to give him water until they arrived at a Border Patrol station.

— “June 10 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 10, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Early June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

One woman who traveled with her son and nephews said that the Border Patrol agent who found them yelled at them aggressively, refused to let them speak at all, and threatened to hand them over to the police when they tried to speak after she told them to “shut up.” They were also denied food while in custody.

— “June 10 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 10, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit

Early April, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Another young Guatemalan migrant reported that before Border Patrol agents expelled him to Nogales, Sonora, they threw away all the water and supplies they had brought with them. The BP agents took the apples the group brought for food and fed them to their horses. When they asked for water since they had walked days in the desert, the BP agents refused until several hours later.

— “April 15 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 15, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Food or Water, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: 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

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

July 7, 2020

A complaint to the DHS Inspector-General, submitted by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center, denounced “CBP officials’ egregious verbal abuse of detained individuals,” including “many instances in which Border Patrol agents verbally abused individuals, including children, in their custody,” including asylum seekers.

Agents berated migrants for traveling to the United States and attempting to exercise their legal right to seek asylum.[16] “Xenophobic nationalism is widespread,” and derogatory comments are often accompanied by threatened or actual physical violence.[17] Agents bully LGBTQ people, equate migrants to animals, and ridicule and humiliate parents trying to protect their children.[18]

The complaint cited numerous explicit examples, some of them reproduced below. All are from interviews with migrants completed between March and July of 2019 with people recently released from Border Patrol custody in San Diego and Tijuana.

This abuse may involve bullying, harassment, threats of violence or other harm, denigration, ridicule, racism, and misstatements about U.S. immigration law, including an individual’s right to seek asylum. Recently detained individuals related the following statements to our investigator: [28]

– “Olvídate del asilo, a la mejor te quitamos a tu hija.”
“Forget about asylum, we might just take away your daughter.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman while interrogating her about why she came to the United States.

– “No mantenemos hijos de nadie.”
“We don’t take care of anyone’s children.”
—Border Patrol agent to a mother when she asked for food for her 1-year old child who had not had any food to eat for an entire day.

– “Cabrona, échate para atrás.”
“You bastard, get back over there.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman as she was entering the country and injured from crossing the border wall.

– “¿Desgraciada, ¿porque tienes tantos niños si no los puedes cuidar? Puta, prostituta.”
“Disgraced woman, why do you have so many kids if you can’t take care of them? Slut, prostitute.”
—Border Patrol agent to a detained mother.

– “¿Cuáles de ustedes maricas sufren de asma?”
“Which of you faggots suffer from asthma?”
—Border Patrol agent to a holding cell of young boys aged 13 to 17.

– “If you keep complaining I will put you with the dogs.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman when she refused to undress for a search during apprehension.

– “Son indios de pata rajada, solo usan sus hijos para entrar.”
“You are all [derogatory expression referring to indigenous peoples], you only use your children to enter [the United States].”
—Border Patrol agent to detained father.

– “¡Aquí no se hace lo que voz dice, se hace lo que yo digo!”
“Here we don’t do what you say, you do what I say!
—Border Patrol agent to pregnant woman asking for water.

– “Are you f***ing retarded? Stop playing with that s***.”
—Border Patrol agent to children playing in holding cell.

– “Váyanse de aquí, ¿qué hacen aquí sí ni hablan inglés?, no valen nada.”
“Get out of here, what are you doing here if you don’t even speak English, you are worthless.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman and her family upon apprehension.

– “No estás en tu casa, ¿tienes mierda en la cabeza?”
“You’re not at home, do you have s*** for brains?”
—Border Patrol agent to woman who asked for a plastic cup to drink water.

– “Joder con ustedes, por eso no mejoran en su país.”
“I’ve f***ing had it with you, this is why you guys don’t advance in your country.”
—Border Patrol agent to detained woman who did not understand his Spanish.

– “I don’t have to tell you, you broke the law, you have no rights.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman when she asked what was on the form she was being instructed to sign.

– “¡Levántense, puercas!”
“Get up, pigs!”
—Border Patrol agent to a cell of detained women.

– “You are an idiot but you sure are good at popping out kids.”
—Border Patrol agent to detained mother.

— “Re: U.S. Border Patrol’s Verbal Abuse of Detained Individuals” (San Diego and El Paso: ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, July 7, 2020) https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-07-07-dhs-oig-cmplt-4-final.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[16]: Josiah Heyman, Jeremy Slack & Daniel E. Martínez, Why Border Patrol Agents and Cbp Officers Should Not Serve as Asylum Officers, Ctr. For Migration Studies (June 21, 2019), https://cmsny.org/publications/heyman-slack-martinez-062119/.

[17]: Id.

[18]: See, e.g., id.; Grace Panetta, Border Patrol officials reportedly forced a Honduran migrant to walk around a detention center holding a sign reading ‘I like men’ in Spanish, BUS. INSIDER, July 5, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/detained-migrant-forced-hold-sign-reading-i-like-men-report-2019-7?op=1; Nick Valencia, et al., Border Patrol agents allegedly tried to shame a migrant by making him hold a sign reading ‘I like men,’ emails show, CNN, July 4, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/04/us/honduran-migrant-shamed-border-patrol/index.html; Andrew Gumbel, ‘They Were Laughing at Us’: Immigrants Tell of Cruelty, Illness and Filth in US Detention, GUARDIAN, Sept. 12, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/12/us-immigration-detention-facilities; Cristina Novoa, 5 Revelations From Children in Border Patrol Facilities, CENTER AM. PROGRESS, July 3, 2019, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/news/2019/07/03/471808/5-revelations-children-border-patrol-facilities/ (“Beyond demonstrating a shocking lack of compassion toward frightened children, testimonies also show that some guards appear to deliberately scare children in their custody”).

[28]: Most of ACLU’s interviews were conducted in Spanish, with contemporaneous notes taken in Spanish by our investigator. Where our notes contain the original Spanish quotes, we have provided that original (as relayed by the interviewee to our investigator) as well as our English translation. At times, our investigator memorialized a statement in English only during her interview (via simultaneous translation). In such cases, we have reproduced her English translation here.
Many of these quotes use degrading and offensive language that we hesitated to reprint. In the end, we decided to reproduce the language reported to remain as faithful as possible to the accounts of those we interviewed.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Pregnancy, Single Adult