8 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Denial of Food or Water” where the accountability status is “Complaint Filed with CRCL”

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

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

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

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

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