13 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Lying or Deliberate Misleading” where the accountability status is “Unknown”

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report recounted the experience of four Nicaraguan and Venezuelan asylum seekers who were laterally flown from McAllen to El Paso, Texas, detained for more than 10 days, then placed into the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program.

The men had crossed the border near the Rio Grande Valley in November 2021, where CBP initially detained them in horrible conditions in hieleras (extremely cold cells), woke them in the middle of the night, shackled them by their hands, feet, and waists, and then flew them to El Paso. There they were held in CBP cells for several more days before being sent to Ciudad Juárez under RMX. CBP falsely told some of the men that they were being transferred for release to family members in the United States.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult, Venezuela

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, reported that “CBP did not permit detained migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom were detained for nearly two weeks, to call their families to inform them of their whereabouts.”

After their return to Mexico under RMX, many learned that CBP officers had lied to them when the officers claimed that CBP would contact their family members in the United States, leaving their families in anguish for weeks uncertain as to the fate of their loved ones.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

Late December 2021 and Early January 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report discussed examples of CBP personnel hindering access to counsel for migrants placed into the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program, even though the Biden administration’s December 2021 guidance guarantees that those who fear return to Mexico may have the opportunity to consult with an attorney before their non-refoulement interviews with U.S. asylum officers (original link).

A Nicaraguan asylum seeker reported to Human Rights First that CBP officers threatened that his non-refoulment interview would be rescheduled and his detention in horrible CBP custody extended, if he insisted on speaking to an attorney, thereby pressuring him to go ahead without an attorney. In another case, CBP officers tricked an individual who is unable to read into signing a document waiving his opportunity to have counsel during the RMX fear screening interview. CBP officers told him that by signing the document he would be indicating that he had a fear of returning to Mexico, according to attorneys from the Border Project.

Multiple asylum seekers who did not pass RMX fear screening interviews and were returned to Ciudad Juárez in December 2021 reported that CBP officers falsely told them that they would have to pay for an attorney consultation for the RMX fear screening even though the Border Project was providing free legal consultations at the time. As a result, the individuals went ahead with their non-refoulement interviews without legal counsel.

In early December 2021, RMX returnees interviewed by Human Rights First in Ciudad Juárez said that they were not provided informational flyers explaining access to legal services until after the non-refoulement interview was completed or, in some cases, as they were being returned to Mexico by CBP. Several individuals returned to Tijuana under RMX in early January 2022 also reported that they were not informed that they could consult with a lawyer until after the non-refoulement interview was already completed, according to a volunteer with the California Welcoming Task Force.

CBP officers told a Nicaraguan asylum seeker detained in El Paso he could only speak with a lawyer selected for him by DHS, which he would have to pay for. The man told Human Rights First that his request to contact his family to ask them to hire a lawyer was denied by CBP. As a result, he was unable to speak with a lawyer before CBP returned him to Ciudad Juárez under RMX.

As RMX relaunched in San Diego in January 2022, asylum seekers and migrants there “told a volunteer from the California Welcoming Task Force that they were not informed of the opportunity to contact counsel prior to the non-refoulement interview and were told by CBP officers that they would be returned to Mexico regardless of the outcome of that interview.”

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Counsel, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult

December 2021

December 2021 guidance for implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program specified that individuals should be exempted from the program if they suffer from mental or physical health issues or disabilities; vulnerabilities from advanced age; or risk of harm due to sexual orientation or gender identity (original link). Nonetheless, a January 2022 Human Rights First report found that CBP officers, even during the initial days of RMX, were not performing required health screenings.

CBP officers are also failing to ask health screening questions and falsely recording on the “Initial Health Interview Questionnaire” that migrants and asylum seekers placed in RMX have reported that they do not have any serious medical conditions. None of the 18 individuals in RMX who Human Rights First interviewed in Ciudad Juárez in December 2021 had been asked the 11 health screening questions on the form. Some were not asked any health-related questions, while others said that CBP officers inquired only generally about health issues.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

September 2021

A Human Rights First report described DHS expulsions of asylum seekers from Haiti, especially following the mid-September arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.

DHS detained many of those expelled to Haiti for days in the United States prior to expulsion—undercutting the administration’s claims that the expulsions were being carried out to protect public health—and transported them in shackles on flights to Haiti. DHS officers frequently refuse to tell those being expelled where they are being taken and, in some cases, cruelly lie that the flights are destined for Florida or elsewhere in the United States. Mirlande Joachim, an attorney representing more than a dozen Haitian asylum seekers detained after crossing near Del Rio told Human Rights First that CBP and other DHS officers routinely refused to allow her to speak to her clients and that most were expelled without a fear screening despite her and the clients’ repeated attempts to request 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): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Denial of Access to Counsel, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Haiti

Mid-September, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance found that DHS officials often lied to Haitian migrants about the destination of what turned out to be Title 42 expulsion flights, following a September 2021 mass migration event in Del Rio, Texas.

In the process of these expulsions, DHS officials reportedly made misleading statements to migrants, telling them that they were being flown to other locations within the United States for processing when, in reality, they were being expelled to Haiti. Because officers lied about where asylum seekers were being taken, some expelled individuals did not realize they had been sent to Haiti until they got off the plane.

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.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): DHS

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Haiti

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 writhing 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

Mid-August, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A Guatemalan man who was migrating due to extreme poverty attempted crossing into the U.S. near McAllen, Texas. Border Patrol apprehended him, held him under a highway bridge for several days [Border Patrol’s “Temporary Outdoor Processing Site” (TOPS) facility in Mission, Texas], then told him they would arrange transport to his family members in the United States.

They flew him to Tucson, and when they took him off the flight, told him they would take him to a place where he could sign papers for the transport to his family. Instead, they put him on a bus to Nogales, where he was expelled. He did not know he was being expelled until he reached the port of entry.

— “August 19 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 19, 2021).

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

Mid-July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

At least five different migrants arriving at our Migrant Aid Center in the last two weeks shared that BP agents have adopted a manipulative strategy to avoid providing medical attention to migrants in their custody. Officers tell migrants at one processing center that they will receive medical attention at the next processing center. When migrants arrive at the next center, agents there tell them the same thing, and the migrants are instead expelled to Mexico without ever having received medical attention.

— “July 22 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 22, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Medical Condition

Mid-June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported about the separation of a Honduran Garífuna family whose asylum claim had gained an exception to the Title 42 expulsion policy:

Last week, a Honduran father of 5 whose wife is 3 months pregnant was detained by ICE as he and his family were processed through the consortium process at the downtown Nogales port of entry. The father does not have any criminal history in the US, and Spanish is the family’s second language, as they are part of the Garífuna indigenous community in Honduras.

As the mother shared in her testimony at the interfaith #SaveAsylum event this week, when the father was separated from his family, the CBP officer assured his wife that he would only be detained a day or two, but he has now been separated from his family for over a week.

His wife, who is stranded waiting for her husband’s release at a shelter in Tucson with their 5 children, attempted to set an appointment to visit her husband at La Palma, but was unable to do so because the visitation phone system is all in English. She has not received any clarity about when her husband will be released, and a week after his detention had not been able to make any contact since she does not have money to put in his commissary.

— “June 24 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 24, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): ICE, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Honduras, Indigenous

Early June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported:

A woman from Mexico and her four children, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, presented themselves at the port of entry and asked for asylum. The officers present informed them that they had to come to KBI to be granted asylum, when an NGO clearly has no such authority. Unbelievably, this is only one of multiple instances in which US authorities have told asylum seekers to come to KBI for asylum.

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

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

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

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

Mid-December, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A pregnant Guatemalan woman arrived at KBI last week after being expelled under Title 42. She traveled north through Mexico alone, and crossed with a guide into the Arizona desert where she turned herself in to Border Patrol. Once detained, she requested the Border Patrol agents hear her fear claim to process her for asylum. They assured her they would do so. She overheard the agents saying they were sending her back to Mexico, and asked why, when they had assured her they would hear her fear declaration. She pleaded with them not to expel her to Mexico. Although they knew she was 5 months pregnant, they pulled her, forcibly put her into the Border Patrol vehicle and threatened to handcuff her if she resisted. Border Patrol agents then expelled her to Nogales, Sonora.

— “December 17 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, December 17, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, Pregnancy, Single Adult