45 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Non-Return of Belongings”

November 4, 2022

Four Democratic House members, including key committee chairs, sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking the agency to investigate “concerns about Border Patrol agents confiscating asylum seekers’ religious headwear as well as not returning or improperly discarding personal property belonging to apprehended individuals.” (Original link)

They ask GAO to look into how Border Patrol collects, stores, transfers, and returns apprehended migrants’ property, as well has how Border Patrol oversees its agents’ handling of personal property and what complaint mechanisms are in place for individuals whose property is not returned to them.

— Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, and Rep. Joaquin Castro. “GAO Request Personal Property,” November 4, 2022. <https://democrats-homeland.house.gov/imo/media/doc/gao_request_personal_property.pdf>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Under GAO Investigation

Victim Classification:

October 3, 2022

A coalition of Arizona-based groups led by ACLU Arizona sent a letter to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, summarized by the Border Chronicle, asking his agency to cease the practice of requiring asylum-seeking migrants to relinquish their personal belongings, which often get discarded.

The letter’s appendix includes numerous examples, from Border Patrol’s Tucson and Yuma sectors, of items taken from migrants. Among them:

  • Turbans confiscated from Sikh asylum seekers, denounced earlier in an August 1 letter from ACLU of Arizona. Through September 2022, the organizations had “documented at least 95 cases in which Arizona Border Patrol agents confiscated and did not replace turbans from members of the Sikh faith.”
  • Prayer rugs that migrants were forced to abandon, “sometimes in dumpsters. One of these individuals had to discard a prayer rug that had been in their family for over a hundred years.”
  • Several cases of rosaries and bibles, including “multi-generational family bibles,” that migrants were forced to deposit in dumpsters.
  • 42 cases of vital medications confiscated and not replaced between November 2021 and September 2022, including “those for HIV, high blood pressure, diabetes (types 1 and 2), and epilepsy. Agents also took migrants’ asthma inhalers and prenatal and hormonal vitamins from women with high-risk pregnancies. Most of the individuals whose medications for high blood pressure and diabetes were confiscated were released to shelter providers with (sometimes extremely) elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels.”
  • “At least 15 separate instances in which elderly individuals were forced by Border Patrol agents in Arizona to abandon medical assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.”
  • Reports, received by a New Mexico shelter provider, that El Paso Border Patrol Sector agents were seizing “critical medications and medical devices, such as epi-pens and inhalers.”
  • In Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, “The National Butterfly Center (located in Mission, Texas) has found photo identification, birth certificates, and bank account information at its facility or on the perimeter, where migrants are often apprehended. The organization has collected at least ten sets of identification documents in the last year alone. Other advocates who operate in the Rio Grande Valley Sector report finding discarded police reports, medical records, passports, immigration papers, and other documents that could be vital to substantiating an asylum claim.”
  • Between January and October 2022, “A New Mexico shelter provider that receives migrants from El Paso Sector Border Patrol reports that Border Patrol has sometimes confiscated cellphones and either not returned them or returned them in damaged condition.”
  • Between May and September 2022, the Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative “encountered at least 29 cases in which migrants’ cell phones were confiscated by Arizona Border Patrol agents.”
  • In March 2022, the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition “encountered several families who were forced by Border Patrol agents to discard their children’s toys and stuffed animals with their children in line-of-sight.”

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, Tucson, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

September 29, 2022

A report from the DHS Inspector-General praises Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector’s handling of migrants’ personal property. The sector’s Eagle Pass processing facility uses “a bar-coded wristband system to track the handling, retention, retrieval, and return,” along with “requirements to communicate with detainees about their property while in custody and at their eventual departure.” (Original link) The system was first implemented in February 2022 “to supplement Border Patrol Headquarters’ April 2021 national guidance on managing the personal property of detainees.”

This system, however, is unique to Eagle Pass: CBP does not plan to expand it throughout the sector, the Inspector-General reports. “Although it is possible that several other stations can implement the same procedures associated with the handling and storage of property, due to its dependence on individual station resources, CBP believes that the assignment of volunteers and caregivers to this specific task at all stations sector-wide in DRT [Del Rio Sector] is not practicable.”

— “Del Rio Area Struggled With Prolonged Detention, Consistent Compliance With CBP’s TEDS Standards, and Data Integrity.” Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, September 22, 2022. <https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-10/OIG-22-80-Oct22.pdf>.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

September 15, 2022

Fronteras Desk interviewed Yuma, Arizona-based advocate Fernando Quiroz, who monitors Border Patrol apprehensions of asylum-seeking migrants in the Yuma Sector. Quiroz discussed Border Patrol’s widely denounced confiscation of migrants’ belongings in the sector.

They [hundreds of migrants per day] bring backpacks, clothes, supplies, toys, money, important documents, and starting last year, Quiroz says much of it was being thrown in the trash when they were taken into custody. He took pictures of entire dumpsters filled with their belongings and he asked Border Patrol about it.

“They would say, ‘We here at this Yuma sector, we are not travel agents. We do not have the manpower, we don’t have the people, we don’t have the storage and it’s also a safety issue for us for these individuals to carry their backpacks or their belongings into our sector,’” Quiroz said. “So every single one, imagine every single day, from 400 to 1,000 individuals who are told, ‘Throw your backpack in the trash.’ It is heartbreaking. It typically is very heartbreaking. We’re talking about — this is all they have.”

…“I have here things that I have collected of individuals that have thrown in the trash, from prayer rugs to Bibles to Qurans to religious artifacts. It is sad,” Quiroz said.

— Lauren Gilger. “Border Patrol Made Migrants Throw Away Backpacks, Passports, Birth Certificates.” Fronteras Desk, September 15, 2022. <https://fronterasdesk.org/content/1810080/border-patrol-made-migrants-throw-away-backpacks-passports-birth-certificates>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return and destruction of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents.

When BP apprehended Samuel [name changed to protect privacy], agents confiscated all his belongings. They took his phone and removed the SIM card and pocketed it, took his wallet that had $300 in it and removed the credit cards and pocketed them as well. They ripped up his birth certificate in front of him.The agents were speaking in English amongst themselves, so he couldn’t understand what they were saying. He was only able to save his Mexican ID because he had previously hid it in his shoe.

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return of a Mexican migrant’s belongings.

BP apprehended Ronel [name changed to protect privacy] and brought him to Florence, AZ to be detained. BP agents took all of his belongings- his cell phone, money, and legal documents- and did not return them upon his deportation. Ronel was thus stranded in Nogales, Sonora without any identification, money or way to contact his family. 

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late August, 2022

The Nogales-based Kino Border Initiative reported a case of Border Patrol agents’ non-return of a Mexican migrant’s belongings and identification documents.

BP apprehend Brayan [name changed to protect privacy] and confiscated all his personal belongings- $1,800 pesos ($89 USD), a chain with a diamond ring that his father had given to him, a Bible, the keys to his home, his cell phone with all of his contacts, his Mexican IDs, and birth certificate. BP thus deported Brayan to Nogales, Sonora without any of the resources necessary to return home and without the personal items with sentimental value that had helped sustain him in his journey.

— “September 1 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 1, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

August 3, 2022

Arizona Luminaria recounted the mistreatment of a Sikh asylum seeker who turned himself in to Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents.

On Aug. 3, a Sikh asylum-seeker crossed the border along with his wife and two young children near Yuma to turn themselves in to Border Patrol, according to Ahluwalia. After waiting more than 12 hours near the border wall, they were finally bused to the nearby station for processing.

After waiting all day in the sun — with the parents taking turns holding their young children, ages 2 and 4 — the man was feeling weak and ill, and was beginning to struggle to breathe. He was given water and allowed to sit down as two officers, one of whom he described as rude and aggressive ordered him to remove his turban, according to Ahluwalia.

He explained that he was happy to take it off and let them search it, but he wanted it back afterward. The officers took it off, took photos of him with his hair loose, and confiscated the turban. He said he felt humiliated.

As the processing continued, he told the officers he was feeling worse. They pressured him into signing paperwork he didn’t understand, telling him, “You need to sign this,” in a manner he felt was threatening, according to the case notes. They accused him of pretending to be sick, and one officer pulled him to his feet, pushed him against the wall, and handcuffed him.

His wife, who witnessed the aggression, began crying. When he tried to console her and his children, speaking to them in Punjabi, the officer who handcuffed him said, “You need to speak f—ing English,” he later told his attorney.

The officer then escorted him to a small solitary confinement cell and left him alone. He was in the room for a few hours, during which he threw up two to three times. Though he said there were cameras in the room, and he was banging on the door for help, nobody came. Finally, about three hours later, he was taken back to his family and an officer unshackled him.

He asked multiple times if he could have his turban back, according to Ahluwalia, but he never saw it again. He also repeatedly asked for medical attention, but was denied, with an officer explaining to him that he had already been given Tylenol. Four or five days later, after he was released, a volunteer at a welcome center in Tucson gave him cloth to cover his head.

“I wanted to cry,” he told his attorney. At the welcome center he tested positive for COVID-19, he told Ahluwalia.

— Washington, John. “Border Patrol Has New Orders Not to Trash Sikh Turbans but Isn’t Sharing Guidance Publicly, Advocates Say.” AZ Luminaria, September 19, 2022. <http://azluminaria.org/2022/09/19/border-patrol-now-instructing-agents-to-stop-taking-sikh-turbans/>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings, Religious Freedom Violation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Sikh

August 1, 2022

A letter from the ACLU of Arizona, first covered by the Intercept and Arizona Luminaria, contended that Border Patrol agents in Yuma had confiscated at least 64 turbans from asylum seekers of the Sikh faith so far this year, including at least 50 in the prior 2 months.

These, the letter argues, are “serious religious-freedom violations” against members of the world’s fifth-largest organized religion, most prevalent in India’s Punjab region. “Forcibly removing or targeting a Sikh’s turban or facial hair has symbolized denying that person the right to belong to the Sikh faith and is perceived by many as the most humiliating and hurtful physical and spiritual injury that can be inflicted upon a Sikh,” the letter notes.

Citing interns at an Arizona migrant shelter, Arizona Luminaria reported on August 5 that “the number of turbans confiscated and discarded by Border Patrol is in the hundreds, far beyond the number reported earlier this week.”

CBP often faces allegations of throwing away migrants’ personal belongings. The ACLU letter called it a “universal, well-documented, and recurring practice by agents in the Yuma Border Patrol Sector of forcing apprehended migrants to discard nearly all of their personal property in advance of processing.” The Intercept adds: “Word has begun circulating among those seeking asylum in the Yuma area: Border Patrol is forcing everyone to throw away all personal belongings, except for cellphones, wallets, and travel documents.”

CBP officials told the Washington Post that “they have recently reminded Border Patrol supervisors that agency policies require agents to exercise care when handling ‘personal property items of a religious nature.’” The Border Patrol’s Tucson sector chief told advocates that agents “were being retrained,” according to the Intercept, and CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement cited by the Post that the agency has opened an internal investigation.

In an August 17 update on this story, “the national Sikh Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona told Arizona Luminaria they are aware of at least 12 new cases of turban confiscation this month alone” in Arizona.

“There are good agents and bad ones,” Fernando Quiroz, a Yuma-based volunteer with the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition, told the Border Chronicle. “Some can care less that there’s been a policy change.”

On September 19, 2022, Arizona Luminaria reported that CBP had issued new interim guidance instructing Border Patrol agents to stop confiscating Sikh asylum seekers’ turbans. “When for security reasons agents need to inspect the turban, the interim guidance requires that they subsequently return it to the Sikh person.” The agency did not make this temporary order public; it went into effect on August 6 and CBP shared it with ACLU Arizona and the Sikh Coalition on September 6.

“Whistleblowers working with a Tucson agency that aids migrants and refugees also shared accounts of Border Patrol agents verbally harassing Sikh asylum seekers and denying them their religiously required diets,” Arizona Luminaria added.

— Noah Schramm, Vanessa Pineda, Heather L. Weaver, Daniel Mach, “ACLU of Arizona Letter on Border Patrol Confiscating Sikhs’ Turbans” (Arizona: DocumentCloud, August 1, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22125092-aclu-of-arizona-letter-on-border-patrol-confiscating-sikhs-turbans.

— John Washington, “Border Patrol Agents Are Trashing Sikh Asylum-Seekers’ Turbans” (Arizona: Arizona Luminaria, The Intercept, August 2, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/08/02/sikh-turban-border-patrol/.

— Angela Cordoba Perez, “’I Understood His Pain’: Advocates Denounce Confiscating Belongings From Migrants at Border” (Phoenix: The Arizona Republic, August 5, 2022) https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2022/08/05/asylum-advocates-denounce-confiscating-belongings-from-migrants-at-border/10230819002/.

— John Washington, “Whistleblowers say Arizona Border Patrol practice of trashing Sikh turbans is widespread” (Arizona: Arizona Luminaria, August 5, 2022) https://azluminaria.org/2022/08/05/whistleblowers-say-arizona-border-patrol-practice-of-trashing-sikh-turbans-is-widespread/.

— Nick Miroff, “Border Officials Investigating Claims Sikh Turbans Were Confiscated” (Washington: The Washington Post, August 3, 2022) https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/03/border-patrol-turban-yuma/.

— John Washington, “Despite Border Patrol leader’s promise to stop, Congress members call out agents still confiscating Sikh asylum-seekers’ turbans” (Arizona: Arizona Luminaria, August 17, 2022) https://azluminaria.org/2022/08/17/congress-members-call-out-border-patrol-agents-still-confiscating-sikh-asylum-seekers-turbans/.

— Melissa del Bosque, “A New Campaign to Get the Border Patrol to Stop Trashing Asylum Seekers’ Possessions” (United States: The Border Chronicle, August 16, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/a-new-campaign-to-get-the-border.

— Washington, John. “Border Patrol Has New Orders Not to Trash Sikh Turbans but Isn’t Sharing Guidance Publicly, Advocates Say.” AZ Luminaria, September 19, 2022. <http://azluminaria.org/2022/09/19/border-patrol-now-instructing-agents-to-stop-taking-sikh-turbans/>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings, Religious Freedom Violation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with CBP, Shared with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG, Shared with OPR

Victim Classification: Sikh

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported a significant case of non-return of migrants’ valuable belongings:

Last weekend, ICE deported a group of 12 migrants to Nogales after being detained. Every person reported that upon their encounter with BP, agents took away all their belongings and said they would return them upon arriving in Tucson, which never happened. When they arrived in Nogales, their belongings still had not been returned. Items confiscated included money (one individual lost $200 USD), wallets, phones, and jewelry with sentimental value. One person from the group shared that he witnessed a Border Patrol agent take $3,000 pesos [about US$150] from another migrant and rip it up in his face saying, “This is trash, this is of no value to you here,” before throwing the ripped bills in the trash can.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported the case of a migrant who had precious belongings taken from him in Border Patrol custody:

BP [Border Patrol] took Miguel’s* [name changed for privacy reasons] clothes, underwear, Mexican ID, phone, Bible and rosary. His phone contained all his family members’ phone numbers, as well as family photos. Upon deportation, he wasn’t able to contact his family until he borrowed someone else’s phone to search for them on Facebook. Though he was eventually able to make contact, he will never get his family photos back. He commented to KBI staff that although a rosary may not be of much value to some people, his faith sustained him during the journey.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Mexico, Single Adult

Late July, 2022

On August 4, 2022, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported the consequences of Border Patrol taking a migrant’s mobile phone away from him in custody, and deporting him without it.

BP confiscated Jose’s* [name changed for privacy reasons] phone when they detained him and did not return it when they deported him to Nogales, Mexico. Since he did not have any family phone number memorized, when he arrived in Nogales, Jose had no way of contacting his family to let them know he is okay or to ask that they send money so he can return home. Although staff at Kino spent about a half hour helping José look on Facebook to try to find a family member, they could not find anyone, leaving Jose stranded in Nogales without the ability to contact family members.

Although KBI collaborates with local organizations and consulates to assist expelled individuals recover their personal belongings, when migrants’ phones are confiscated and not returned to them, it prevents Kino and other border organizations from following up with them and can prevent migrants themselves from looking up contact info for relatives or neighbors to whom their belongings can be sent.

— “August 4 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, August 4, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

July 2022

According to an October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups led by ACLU Arizona to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition “encountered an Afro-Cuban migrant whose religious artifact (a small figurine of significance in the Lukumí faith) was confiscated by Arizona Border Patrol agents.”

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Cuba

July 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups, led by ACLU Arizona, to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, reports that the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition “encountered a man whose new laptop was confiscated by Border Patrol agents in Arizona. The laptop contained legal evidence for his asylum claim as well as all of his family photos.”

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): Tucson, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Mid-July, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) recorded that 10 expelled or deported “migrants reported the theft of their personal belongings while in CBP and ICE custody. Migrants who arrived at Kino after having been detained by CBP or ICE reported that these agencies robbed them of money, cell phones, and national IDs, without which, they will face challenges in finding work, accessing health care, and other services in Mexico.”

— “July 21 update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 21, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

June 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups, led by ACLU Arizona, to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus cites a case of U.S. border authorities confiscating a child’s medication and denying medical assistance.

The ACLU of New Mexico encountered a woman who was detained by Border Patrol agents in El Paso with her two children. Her five-year-old daughter has epilepsy and takes medication three times a day and follows a strict dietary regimen. Once she was detained by CBP, her daughter’s medications were taken away, and the family was refused any medical assistance until later that night, after her daughter began convulsing. Her daughter was taken from CBP custody to the University Medical Center (UMC) in El Paso where she stayed for two days. Doctors at UMC prescribed medications for four months, as well as Enfamil and PediaSure nutrition drinks for approximately one month. Once the child returned to CBP detention, CBP agents withheld the medicine and meal supplements prescribed by UMC staff. The mother was unable to obtain medication for her child until they were released to a shelter in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where her child once again had convulsions. While at the shelter, her child received medical care and medication.

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child

June 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups, led by ACLU Arizona, to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus cites a case of a Border Patrol agent allegedly stealing a migrant’s cash.

The ACLU of New Mexico encountered a woman who reported that the attending Border Patrol agent confiscated her wallet containing $240, slid the money into his pocket, and then returned the wallet. When she asked the agent where the money was, he changed the subject and told her not to worry since, “you have a very good case and will be approved to stay.”

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female

Mid-June, 2022

Though a May 23, 2022 District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruling prohibited CBP personnel from using Title 42 to expel asylum-seeking families to places where they will be persecuted or tortured (original link), the practice continues, the Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reports.

* Pablo [name changed to protect privacy], a Nicaraguan man traveling with his daughter to escape political persecution in their country, crossed into the US last week to seek asylum. Border Patrol threw away their toiletries, food and other personal items, and expelled them to Nogales, Sonora without a fear assessment. Pablo was not given the chance to speak about his case to anyone. 

* Deysi left Guatemala with her six-year-old daughter about a month ago. Her mother was brutally murdered in her hometown, and the rest of her family members have already fled to the US since her mother’s death. She and her daughter attempted to cross into the US to seek asylum and were quickly detained by Border Patrol. They took down her biographical information and fingerprints, but never gave her the opportunity to explain the danger she was fleeing. 

* Several young mothers and their children from an indigenous community in Guatemala tried to cross into the US to seek asylum earlier this month. All of them spoke Mam, their indigenous language, and some spoke limited Spanish. They were detained in the desert, where Border Patrol agents confiscated their personal items like clothing and medication. When they told a Border Patrol agent that they wanted to seek asylum, the agent dismissed them and ignored their request, saying “Ustedes sabrán qué hacer” [“you’ll know what to do”].  Border Patrol told one of the women from the group that the border was closed and she would need to seek asylum in Mexico. When she shared about the violence she suffered in Guatemala, the agent would not believe her. Another woman from the group was so disoriented by the expulsion process and language barrier that when she arrived at Kino, she asked the staff whether she was in Mexico or the US.

* Yanet, [name changed to protect privacy], a Honduran woman fleeing death threats from organized crime groups because she refused to sell drugs for them, traveled north to seek asylum in the US. Despite the fact that she suffered multiple incidents of rape and assault at the hands of her smugglers, Border Patrol quickly expelled her back to Mexico.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Guatemala, Honduras, Indigenous, Nicaragua

Mid-June, 2022

The Nogales, Arizona-based Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported on a Mexican couple whose belongings and medicine were confiscated while in Border Patrol custody.

Humberto [Name changed to protect privacy] together with his wife fled corruption in southern Mexico to migrate to the US and reunite with their US citizen children. …Once they turned themselves in to Border Patrol, the agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.

— “June 23 Update on Asylum, Border, and Deportations from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 23, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico

Early June, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a Mexican husband and wife who turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near Nogales, Arizona. “The agents took their belongings and threw away their suitcase with clothing and medicine and their wallets. They tried to ask for asylum, but US officials ignored them and expelled them back to Mexico the next day.”

— “June 9 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 9, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Married Adults, Mexico

May 24, 2022

Activist Scott Nicol reported finding five COVID vaccination cards and other personal possessions in a trash pile beside a table Border Patrol agents use to process asylum-seeking migrants alongside the border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. The items, discarded by agents, were the personal belongings of asylum-seeking migrants who regularly turn themselves in at this site.

— ”Scott Nicol @Scott_NicolTX on Twitter” (United States, Twitter, May 24, 2022) https://twitter.com/Scott_NicolTX/status/1529247504717471745.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

May 3, 2022

Activist Scott Nicol reported finding a Nicaraguan birth certificate, a cell phone, and a child’s stuffed animal beside the border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. The items, discarded by Border Patrol agents, were the personal belongings of asylum-seeking migrants who regularly turn themselves in at this site.

That day, the Border Chronicle featured Nicol’s documentation of items he has recovered near the wall in south Texas. “What really got to me were the x-rays I found. They were for a six-year-old boy, and it showed a steel rod in his spine. It was obviously for an asylum claim. Why would anyone part with those?”

— ”Scott Nicol @Scott_NicolTX on Twitter” (United States, Twitter, May 3, 2022) https://twitter.com/scott_nicoltx/status/1521488561165504513.

— Melissa del Bosque, “The Things They Carried: Is the Border Patrol discarding asylum seekers’ documents?” (United States: The Border Chronicle, May 3, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-things-they-carried-is-the-border.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua

April 2022

An October 3, 2022 letter from a coalition of Arizona-based groups led by ACLU Arizona to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, citing “a New Mexico shelter provider that receives migrants from the El Paso Sector Border Patrol,” reported on an 18-year-old migrant boy who was separated from his mother “around April of this year” who “was released from Border Patrol custody without his epilepsy medication.”

— Several Arizona Non-Governmental Human Rights Groups. “Letter to CBP Regarding Treatment of Migrants’ Personal Belongings,” October 3, 2022. <https://www.acluaz.org/sites/default/files/2022.10.03_letter_to_cbp_regarding_treatment_of_migrants_personal_belongings.pdf>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

Mid-April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about Border Patrol confiscating asylum-seeking migrants’ mobile phones before expelling them into Nogales, Mexico under Title 42.

A young Mexican woman left her hometown because she had received death threats. She arrived at the border earlier this month and attempted to cross into the US. She was detained by Border Patrol agents who confiscated her belongings, including her cell phone. When she was going to be expelled into Mexico, a Border Patrol agent asked her to sign a paper saying that she would return in 30 days to collect her belongings. She asked the BP agent, “How will I collect my belongings in 30 days? Do I have to climb over the wall again?” The Border Patrol agent just laughed and said he didn’t know. Border Patrol also confiscated several other women ‘s phones from the same group. A few of them were crying because they did not know their family members’ phone numbers to contact them. One young woman in the group was from an indigenous community in southern Mexico and did not speak Spanish. She had been separated from her husband and now had no way to contact him.

— “April 28 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 28, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Indigenous, Mexico, Single Adult

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the experience of a Honduran asylum-seeking family that spent three days in CBP custody before being expelled into Mexico under Title 42.

CBP held an asylum-seeking Honduran family in freezing cells for days before expelling them under Title 42 without their belongings to Mexico where they were kidnapped just prior to attempting to seek asylum near Calexico. During their three days in CBP custody, the family of three children and their mother were forced to sleep on the floor of a freezing cold holding cell with nothing but foil blankets to keep warm. When CBP expelled the family under Title 42 to San Luis Río Colorado, the officers did not return the family’s possessions, including money, luggage, and medications. They received only their shoes, which were soaking wet and covered in dirt causing painful blisters to develop as the family walked in search of a bus to take them to a shelter.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): El Centro, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras