14 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Endangerment”

January 17, 2024

A January 17 Arizona Daily Star report described freezing temperatures and lack of access to basic necessities threatening asylum seekers gathered outdoors along the border, especially in southern Arizona. As many as 1,000 people were reported awaiting processing in the Tohono O’odham Nation lands along the border in the remote desert southwest of Tucson. A majority of the arrivals reported in this region, as cited by the Arizona Daily Star and described by Tohono O’odham Chairman Verlon Jose, are asylum seekers in family units, including young children. 

Since December, aid workers have coordinated daily presence in the Arizona border region, particularly in the context of freezing temperatures and heavy rains, often being the sole providers of food, water, shelter, medical care, and addressing the growing sanitation needs. A volunteer described his experience, “shoveling human excrement into [the] trenches that were dug”. Volunteers were also reportedly transporting asylum seekers experiencing medical emergencies, despite Border Patrol’s threats to arrest them, as volunteers described the lack of response by authorities even in dire situations. 

Volunteers from Southern Arizona humanitarian aid group, No More Deaths, built a make-shift encampment in the desert region east of Sásabe, with tents and a cooking area, and attached tarps to the border wall to create additional shelters from the cold. CBP subsequently placed “cease-and-desist” signs on the tarps, stating it was a safety hazard and interfered with law enforcement and construction crews’ access to the road, as well as obstructed visibility. 

After pressure from aid workers and the Tohono O’odham nation, Customs and Border Protection installed one large, heated tent, portable toilets, and a hand washing station near the San Miguel gate. 

“It’s solely their responsibility to be doing almost everything that we’re currently doing”, stated a humanitarian aid volunteer. 

Bregel, Emily. “Life-Threatening Cold, ‘sanitation Crisis’ for Migrants at Arizona-Mexico Border.” Arizona Daily Star, January 17, 2024. https://tucson.com/news/local/subscriber/arizona-mexico-border-tohono-oodham-asylumseekers-migrants-surge/article_52e4a176-b565-11ee-87a6-67208722eaeb.html.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Disregard of Public Health, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

December 15, 2023

A Los Angeles Times December 15 publication reported on the family separations taking place at the San Diego border, citing a letter written by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Al Otro Lado, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, and the UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy. 

The letter identified 1,081 family separations, 400 separations of spouses, and 200 separations of adult children and parents. 

Separations are the result of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s practice of releasing migrants to various locations without coordinated reception plans, as they handle increased arrivals of asylum seekers. Al Otro Lado reported these separations among the migrants they serve daily at a San Diego border welcome center. Some families remained separated even after being transferred to long-term detention, and in two cases, one family member was deported while others stayed in the U.S. Some families remain separated even after being transferred to long term detention. 

Many separated families claimed they informed CBP of their family status, but were rarely informed of potential separation or how to locate relatives. A migrant mother reported she was separated from her 19 year old son for five days after being transported to another immigration center unaware of her child’s whereabouts. “It’s hell,” she said. “Not knowing if your son is safe, if he is alive, if something happened to him. All you can do is pray to God.”

In the letter, advocacy groups urged The Department of Homeland Security to broaden the family group definition, document relationships, and ensure families are released together. 

Castillo, Andrea. “Over 1,000 Migrant Families Separated at Border near San Diego since September, Advocates Say.” Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2023. https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-12-15/migrant-families-at-san-diego-border-immigrant-advocates-letter-dhs.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

August 3, 2023

On August 3, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), reported the case of a migrant family from Southern Mexico that fled to the U.S. border to seek asylum. Border Patrol mistreated the family, denied them asylum, and expelled them back to Mexico.

“Leonora*[name changed to protect privacy]  and her 3 kids fled Southern Mexico to save her daughter from sexual violence. They turned themselves into Border Patrol and after Leonora [name changed to protect privacy]  tried to explain why they were fleeing, the BP agent responded, “you’re in charge of defending your own kids; you can’t just come to the US.” The agents made fun of her and laughed at her and made her sign a document- they said if she didn’t sign it, she would be a criminal and would be subject to consequences for 10 years. They were detained for 3 nights, after which BP expelled them at 10 pm despite local repatriation agreements that require that these repatriations occur before 6:30 pm.”

Kino Border Initiative. 2022. “Congressional Year End Report 2023.” Https://Www.Kinoborderinitiative.Org/Annual-Report/. Kino Border Initiative. https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Congressional-Year-End-Report-2023_.pdf.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment, Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Mexico

April 8, 2023

An analysis from the American Immigration Council’s Dara Lind recounted the case of a father who was killed in front of his children in Tijuana, several weeks after being turned away at the port of entry. This case is one of several testimonies collected by the American Immigration Council, as part of a lawsuit challenging CBP’s continued turnbacks of asylum seekers at ports of entry.

On April 8, the Mexican family came to the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana and asked to be let into the United States to seek asylum, as they were fleeing immediate cartel violence in Mexico. The father had been shot and his arm was bleeding. According to the mother, their family begged the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to let them through the gates.

“We showed CBP officers my husband’s bleeding wound and explained the immediate danger we were in,” [the wife] testifie[d]. The officers refused. They told the family that since they didn’t have an appointment for the day via the CBP One app, they had no right to flee the cartel.

The family finally got a CBP One appointment in July 2023, but they had to exclude the father, since on May 1, while the family headed to the Tijuana airport in an attempt to flee to Canada, they were attacked again, resulting in a shooting that killed the father of the family. He died in front of his wife, their 5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

— Lind, Dara. “CBP’s Continued ‘Turnbacks’ Are Sending Asylum Seekers Back to Lethal Danger.” Immigration Impact (blog), August 10, 2023. https://immigrationimpact.com/2023/08/10/cbp-turnback-policy-lawsuit-danger/.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

Early March, 2023

Reporting on March 2, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), stated, “The CBPOne application is currently the sole way to access the asylum process in the US. The extremely limited number of appointments and the myriad technology and accessibility challenges in accessing them (outlined in the Strauss Center’s February Asylum Processing Report) has led to irregular crossing, kidnapping, family separation and danger for families forced to wait in Mexico when they are unable to access an appointment on the app.”

Among cases cited:

Jaime, [name changed to protect privacy] his wife and his son fled Venezuela and arrived in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. There, they were able to schedule an appointment through CBPOne, but the only available appointment was in San Ysidro, Baja California, over 1200 miles away. While traveling to San Ysidro by bus, the entire family was kidnapped, tortured and extorted by a criminal group. The people who boarded the bus identified themselves as Mexican immigration agents, and after asking Jaime and his family where they were from, told them they needed to get off the bus so they could check their documents. These supposed immigration agents brought them to a house, where they were held for 20 days, extorted and tortured. One night at 3 am, they were blindfolded, put in a truck and taken to the border wall. They said they had to walk and cross and if they tried to come back they would kill them. Once they crossed, they called 911 and explained what happened. BP arrived and they explained that they had been kidnapped, had missed their CBPOne appt while being held hostage, and were forced to cross. The agent responded that really they were the criminals because they had crossed illegally. A few hours later, BP expelled them to Nogales, Mexico. 

“March 2 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 2, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

Late February, 2023

Reporting on March 2, 2023,  the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which maintains a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, stated, “Over the past 2 weeks, 73 people (16% of new arrivals) reported experiencing abuse by authorities or criminal actors in transit countries, including Mexico. This pattern of abuse illustrates that policies that force asylum seekers to wait or seek protection in transit countries, such as the proposed asylum ban, do not provide people with adequate access to safety.”

Among cases cited:

Wilhelmina [name changed to protect privacy] fled Venezuela after her parents were killed. She left with her 2 children and her cousin, who is a trans woman. In early February, they were all kidnapped in a Mexican border city and Wilhelmina’s cousin was raped by their captors. Wilhemina escaped with her children and they turned themselves into BP. BP took away all their clothing and expelled them back to the same city where they had been kidnapped. She has not heard from her cousin since February 8, 2023.

“March 2 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 2, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, LGBTQ

February 16,2023

On February 16, 2023  an open letter to Border Patrol was published with contributions from 16 humanitarian organizations denouncing Border Patrol’s response to a medical emergency in a remote area of the Southern Arizona borderlands. As documented by the volunteer search and rescue team involved in the case, the family of a Guatemalan migrant named Martín, made a distress call to a humanitarian aid group that works with migrants, as he needed medical assistance in the wilderness area of the Baboquivari Mountains, lying on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Martín had been left behind by the group he was traveling with due to chest pains not allowing him to continue. The humanitarian group alerted Border Patrol and 911 dispatchers of Martín’s exact coordinates, personal phone number, and copy of his ID. All 911 calls were sent to Border Patrol, which were unresponsive. Border Patrol was unresponsive for three days during the search for Martín. After the Border Patrol did not respond, another humanitarian aid group,  Frontera Aid Collective (FAC), made various calls to law enforcement in Pima County, Arizona, near Martín’s location.

 The calls were then transferred to the “Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit (BORSTAR), who refused to initiate a rescue. As cited in the open letter, “one dispatcher even laughed at the callers.” In response to Border Patrol’s inaction, Frontera Aid Collective and Tucson Samaritans volunteers organized a life-threatening rescue mission to the mountains. During this time, over 40 emergency calls from various groups were made to Border Patrol. Martín, himself, called 911 11 times over the course of 3 days and even sighted helicopters that did not offer help. Once the humanitarian groups were able to locate him, they assisted him down the mountain. After “he was given minimal medical evaluation and treatment by agents who spoke and understood very little of his language, at the bottom of the mountain, he was deported to Nogales, Sonora.”

Several Organizations. “Open Letter to US Border Patrol,” February 2023. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AJdxfSZz9nYtEwZOtTIzVrrEgEYP5R-wq6xBjkPqMTw/edit?usp=embed_facebook.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Corruption, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Disregard of Public Health, Endangerment, Inappropriate Deportation, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Misuse of Intelligence Capability, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition

Mid February, 2023

Reporting on February 16, 2023, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) stated, “The parole processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans has many eligibility requirements which make it extremely difficult for people who are fleeing their countries to access.”

Among cases cited:

Norma [name changed to protect privacy] fled Venezuela after having participated in marches opposing the government. She had to return to the country to attempt to renew her passport, but the government refused to renew it. She had to cross the Darien Gap and faced numerous abuses in Mexico. After the cartels stopped the bus she was on and forced all the non-Mexican passengers off, they robbed and beat her. She turned herself into the BP but they expelled her back to Mexico. 

“February 16 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 16, 2023).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Single Adult

August 1, 2022

Data obtained by the Cato Institute show that, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, CBP personnel have used the Title 42 health provision to expel thousands of families with toddlers and babies into Mexico in the post-midnight hours, despite safety risks. The statistics “show that as of May 31, CBP had used its Title 42 ‘health’ authority to expel 30,806 children ages 3 and under—with about 41 percent of these expulsions occurring at midnight or later,” noted a blog post from Cato’s associate director of immigration studies, David Bier.

Under normal circumstances, CBP’s repatriation agreements with Mexico prohibit removals to Mexican border towns between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM, except under emergency circumstances. Title 42 expulsions have occurred without regard to these repatriation restrictions. “The Biden Administration is actually expelling more children at night than even the Trump Administration did,” Cato noted.

— David J. Bier, “CBP Is Expelling Thousands of Infants and Toddlers to Mexico After Midnight” (Washington: Cato at Liberty, August 1, 2022) https://www.cato.org/blog/cbp-expelling-thousands-infants-toddlers-mexico-after-midnight.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

2021, all year

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

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

ImmDef’s complaint cites the account of “E.C.C.,” a 13-year-old child “who, for nine days, was detained in a CBP facility in a small room with thirty-five to forty other people, most of whom were adults and none of whom ever received a toothbrush or soap.”

— 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, Endangerment

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.”

“More than 25 children reported being held in holding centers in rooms/areas with unrelated adults,” the complaint reads. “These adults were not family or known to the children. Many of the children reported feeling afraid.”

— 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): Conditions in Custody, Endangerment

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.

“5% of children reported being detained with adults,” reads AI Justice’s complaint. “J.H.M. stated that he was in the holding cell with four adult men, two of which harassed the 9-year-old telling him that he was his father and another, his uncle because one of them had impregnated his mom. J.H.M was distraught and tried to tell CBP officers what was happening to him but still he remained in the cell with adults. He reports lying on the floor and crying.”

— 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, Endangerment

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

Mid-September, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance included this testimony from a Haitian migrant who claims that CBP actions endangered him while crossing the Rio Grande during the September 2021 mass migration event in Del Rio, Texas.

One Haitian migrant described how as he was attempting to cross the Rio Grande and return to the encampment with food for himself and others, a CBP officer dismounted from his horse and deliberately cut the rope the migrant was using to navigate the deep water and strong current of the river.[186] He was in the middle of the river when the officer cut the rope and watched as the officer threw the severed rope into the Rio Grande and shouted that they could not return to the American side of the border. When the rope was cut, several other Haitians attempting to cross fell into the river and struggled to swim. He noted that “I thought I was going to die. I went through a lot of misery.”[187] This individual also saw CBP personnel hit and push Haitians closer to the river bank back into the water.

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.

Footnotes from above:

[186]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 25, 2021).

[187]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 25, 2021).

Sector(s):

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Haiti, Single Adult

January 28, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed allegations of cruel treatment during a Border Patrol apprehension.

A Guatemalan man crossed into the United States and was detained in the desert. The border patrol agents who arrested them were driving a four wheeler. They drove really fast, right towards the immigrants. The immigrants had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over. The Guatemalan man fell over when he jumped out of the way. Despite not resisting arrest, an agent put his hand around the migrant’s neck and pulled him to handcuff him. The agents were laughing as they handcuffed him. Despite cold temperatures, he was made to remove his outerwear and walk only in a t-shirt. He was forced to walk 20 minutes handcuffed. Afterwards, he was transported to Tucson and promptly expelled.

KBI filed a January 29, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On March 18, 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): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Endangerment

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult