8 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Lying or Deliberate Misleading” where the victim classification is “Single Adult”

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

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

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

January 17, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed the experience of a Venezuelan man detained by Border Patrol after entering the United States.

He had narrowly escaped criminals who tried to pull him back to Mexico. They managed to take his backpack, which had his phone and other belongings. It was soon after this that he was detained. He was taken to Ajo Station, where he was forced to sign several documents, most of which were in English, a language he does not speak. He fled Venezuela because of persecution he experienced. When he told the agents he was afraid to return to Venezuela, they asked him which was more dangerous: Mexico or Venezuela. He told them he thought both were dangerous. The following day he was forced to sign papers and said he was being expelled under MPP; he was also told he would be given an opportunity to speak with an immigration official in Tucson the following day. This was a lie; he was never given this opportunity. He was transported to Tucson and expelled to Nogales, Sonora two days later.

KBI filed a January 22, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On January 29, 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): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela

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

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