11 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Racial Discrimination or Profiling”

December 2, 2022

An ACLU Texas complaint submitted to DHS leadership, shared and reported by the Texas Tribune, found that Border Patrol collaboration made possible 91 Texas state police “trespassing” arrests of migrants between late July and late August 2022. Border Patrol agents, the complaint reported, played a role in one quarter of the 368 migrant arrests that Texas’s Department of Public Security carried out during this period. The controversial arrests were part of “Operation Lone Star” (OLS), a state-government border crackdown ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s border and migration policies.

“Extrapolating from this data, Border Patrol collusion is likely responsible for hundreds of arrests in Texas’ unlawful, discriminatory, and anti-immigrant trespass arrest system,” the ACLU complaint read.

To date, Texas has arrested more than 5,000 primarily Latinx individuals on state misdemeanor criminal trespass charges under OLS. The state has funneled these individuals into a separate criminal prosecution and detention system riddled with civil rights violations, including failure to appoint counsel and failure to timely file charges.

In July 2022, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica revealed that the Department of Justice was “seeking to review whether Operation Lone Star violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by institutions receiving federal funding.”

Of the 91 Border Patrol-aided arrests in the ACLU complaint:

  • Border Patrol agents were the initial arresting or apprehending party in 35 cases. “Border Patrol effectuated the arrest when DPS [Texas state Department of Public Safety] was not even present and nevertheless turned the individual over to a DPS officer for state misdemeanor trespass rather than process the individual for immigration purposes.”
  • Border Patrol agents and Texas DPS officers were both present for the arrest in 41 arrests. “Instead of Border Patrol taking the individuals into CBP custody for immigration processing, Border Patrol prioritized arrests under Operation Lone Star for misdemeanor trespass—ensuring eligible individuals were instead channeled into the OLS trespass arrest system.”
  • In 15 cases, Border Patrol provided surveillance information to Texas DPS that enabled Texas police to arrest the migrants. “This includes information from Border Patrol helicopter surveillance, drone, and remote cameras.”

The complaint noted that it appears to violate CBP policy for Border Patrol agents, who are federal government personnel, to collude with a state program that has imprisoned thousands of migrants—including asylum seekers—for months in specially designated Texas jails. It recalled an October 2021 interview with Texas Monthly in which Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz called the OLS trespass arrest system “a tremendous concern,” adding, “I really would prefer to see border security left to the border-security experts.”

Texas law does not give Border Patrol agents the authority to arrest people for state misdemeanor charges (and most felony charges). In November 15, 2022 testimony before the Texas State Senate Committee on Border Security, the chief of Border Patrol’s Laredo Sector, Carl Landrum, asked legislators to make a “slight adjustment” to the Texas Penal Code that would allow Border Patrol agents “to arrest and assist in the prosecution of all state felonies and, he said, ‘some misdemeanors,’” the Texas Observer reported in February 2023.

“It is not clear whether the Laredo sector leadership’s position on expanding Texas state law to authorize felony arrests by Border Patrol under state law is endorsed by Border Patrol leadership or consistent with Border Patrol policy,” the ACLU Texas complaint read.

Finding that “Border Patrol’s extensive collusion with DPS in OLS trespass arrests is deeply troubling,” the ACLU Texas complaint called for “investigation by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).”

— Huddleston, Kathryn, Bernardo Cruz, Savannah Kumar, and Adriana Piñon. “Border Patrol Collusion in Texas Migrant Arrest Program under ‘Operation Lone Star’—Urgent Need for Immediate End to Collusion.” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, December 2, 2022. <https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/c7b90d91cada0fd9268a2cb7e78b357a/ACLUTX_DHS_Complaint_OLS.pdf>.

— McCullough, Jolie. “Feds Often Hand Migrants over to State Police Rather than Process Immigration Claims, Complaint Says.” The Texas Tribune, December 2, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/12/02/texas-migrant-arrests-border-patrol/>.

—Trevizo, Perla. “Justice Department Is Investigating Texas’ Operation Lone Star for Alleged Civil Rights Violations.” The Texas Tribune, July 6, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/07/06/operation-lone-star-doj-investigation-abbott/>.

— McCullough, Jolie. “Texas’ Border Operation Is Meant to Stop Cartels and Smugglers. More Often, It Arrests Migrants for Misdemeanor Trespassing.” The Texas Tribune, April 4, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/04/texas-border-operation-imprisons-thousands-accused-only-of-trespassing/>.

— Nelsen, Aaron. “Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on the Crisis in Texas and Why Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star Concerns Him.” Texas Monthly, October 21, 2021. <https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/raul-ortiz-border-patrol-texas/>.

— Griswold, Niki. “Border Patrol Requests Change to Texas Penal Code to Allow Agents to Enforce State Law.” Austin American-Statesman. November 16, 2022. <https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/state/2022/11/16/border-patrol-asks-texas-to-allow-agents-to-enforce-state-law/69639080007/>.

— Buch, Jason. “The Border Patrol’s Power Grab.” The Texas Observer, February 13, 2023. <https://www.texasobserver.org/the-border-patrols-gross-power-grab/>.

Sector(s): Del Rio, Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Texas State Police

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

August 5, 2022

“White men are in charge of 21 of the 22 Border Patrol outposts on the northern, coastal, and southern borders despite the agency being comprised of mostly Hispanic employees,” and only 1 of the 22 sector chiefs is female, the Washington Examiner reported.

““One Hispanic Chief out of 22. That one is female. So an organization with so many Hispanic males they cannot find any qualified to be a chief?” a senior Border Patrol official in Washington told the Examiner. “Of course we shouldn’t promote based on race, but there are a lot of things that seem off.” Former Tucson Sector Chief Victor Manjarrez “said the social hierarchy of agents, or politics, played a significant role and still affects who gets picked for promotions.”

— Anna Giaritelli, “Hispanic agents make up majority of Border Patrol yet white men dominate leadership posts” (Washington: Washington Examiner, August 5, 2022) https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/immigration/hispanic-agents-majority-border-patrol-white-men-dominate-leadership.

Sector(s): Border-Wide, Northern Border

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the days-long separation of a Haitian family in CBP custody, along with allegations of racist language.

An asylum-seeking Haitian family expelled under Title 42 to Haiti and forced to flee again reported in March 2022 that during the expulsion CBP officers separated the parents from their 16-year-old daughter and subjected the girl to racist abuse. The family was detained for days in freezing cold CBP holding cells, with the teenager held separately with other children. She told Human Rights First that during the painful days she was detained away from her parents U.S. officers called her racist names including the N-word.

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): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Family Separation, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Female, Haiti

October 25, 2021

A strongly (and explicitly) worded report from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued on October 25, detailed the disciplinary process following 2019 revelations of a secret Facebook page at which CBP personnel posted racist, violent, and lewd content (original link). The Committee discovered that for most involved, consequences were light: they “had their discipline significantly reduced and continued to work with migrants” (original link).

In July 2019, ProPublica revealed the existence of “I’m 10-15,” a Facebook group with about 9,500 members, many or most of them CBP and Border Patrol personnel. (“I’m 10-15” means “I have migrants in custody.”) ProPublica, and later the Intercept, posted screenshots of content replete with sexual imagery, threats of violence, racist sentiments toward migrants, and disparagement (or worse) of left-of-center political figures.

“CBP knew about Border Patrol agents’ inappropriate posts on ‘I’m 10-15’ since 2016, three years before it was reported publicly,” the House Committee found. Among the Facebook group’s members were Border Patrol’s last two chiefs, Carla Provost (2018-2020) and Rodney Scott (2020-August 2021). Both indicated that they followed the group in order to monitor agents’ attitudes and complaints. After ProPublica revealed the page’s existence, Provost had said “these posts are completely inappropriate” and that agents “will be held accountable.”

Investigators had a hard time finding out whether anyone was indeed being held accountable. Facebook refused to provide content from the page to investigators from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), forcing them to rely on screenshots obtained by media outlets. During the Trump administration, CBP refused to hand over disciplinary records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, even after the committee issued a November 2020 subpoena. The records were turned over in February, after Donald Trump left office.

The Committee found “significant shortcomings in CBP’s approach to disciplining and training employees on social media misconduct.” CBP OPR opened 135 investigations into allegations related to “I’m 10-15” and other unnamed secret Facebook groups. A chief patrol agent, in the role of “deciding official,” made all disciplinary decisions.

This individual decided that 60 of the 135 CBP employees committed misconduct. In the end, the Committee found, “Almost all received significantly lighter final penalties than proposed by CBP’s Discipline Review Board.”

In the end:

  • 2 were fired; CBP’s Discipline Review Board had recommended 24 removals. Both had published sexualized and in some cases violent images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), among other disturbing content.
  • 43 were suspended without pay, most for five days or fewer; the Discipline Review Board had recommended 60 suspensions. Those suspended were “then permitted to return to work in positions of power over migrants,” the Committee’s report notes.
  • 12 received letters of reprimand, 3 received “alternate disciplinary actions” like suspension with pay, 11 received “corrective or non-disciplinary actions,” and 10 took retirement before disciplinary action was taken. Twelve appealed their punishments.

“The CBP discipline system is broken,” a report from an independent DHS panel had stated in 2016 (original link). “No one official and no single office of CBP is actually responsible for assuring timeliness for all phases of the discipline process,” it notes, while “responsibility for investigating an allegation of misconduct is fragmented.” Improving human rights oversight was not a priority during the Trump administration, so no notable accountability progress was made since that report’s publication.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee report described the byzantine accountability process:

OPR investigates the conduct, and CBP’s Discipline Review Board proposes discipline. A deciding official then makes a discipline determination. In some cases, when CBP substantiates allegations of misconduct, employees may be able to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB); file a grievance with a CBP employee union such as the National Border Patrol Council, which may invoke arbitration on behalf of the employee; or, if they believe the action was discriminatory, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This description left out the DHS Office of Inspector General and Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which may play at least tangential roles.

“CBP’s failure to prevent these violent and offensive statements by its own agents or impose adequate discipline creates a serious risk that this behavior will continue,” read a press statement from the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). “As we saw with the mistreatment of migrants by Border Patrol agents in Del Rio, Texas last month, systemic behavior problems within CBP persist. CBP must take immediate steps to reform its disciplinary processes, strengthen social media policies and training, and address longstanding issues of poor morale within its ranks.”

Border Patrol Agents in Secret Facebook Group Faced Few Consequences for Misconduct (Washington: House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, October 25, 2021) https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/COR%20CBP%20Facebook%20Group%20Report%20-%20October%202021.pdf.

— “Committee Report Reveals CBP Reduced Discipline for Dozens of Agents and Allowed Them to Continue Working with Migrants Despite Violent and Offensive Facebook Posts” (Washington: House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, October 25, 2021) https://oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/committee-report-reveals-cbp-reduced-discipline-for-dozens-of-agents-and-allowed

Final Report of the CBP Integrity Advisory Panel (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, March 15, 2016) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/HSAC CBP IAP_Final Report_FINAL (accessible)_0.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment, Racial Discrimination or Profiling, Threat of Violence, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Congressional Investigation Closed, OPR Investigation Closed, Personnel Terminated, Suspension, Reprimand, or Counseling

Victim Classification:

September 25, 2021

“Today, while asking me about who I was visiting on my trip, a Border Patrol agent said I was being ‘coy’ with my answers and suggested that it would be possible that I am friends with—I kid you not—Osama Bin Laden,” tweeted Abdallah Fayyad, a member of the Boston Globe’s editorial board. (He may have been referring to an officer of CBP’s Office of Field Operations.)

— Tweet by Abdallah Fayyad @abdallah_fayyad (Twitter: September 25, 2021) https://twitter.com/abdallah_fayyad/status/1441914525310074880.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Middle Eastern, U.S. Citizen or Resident

Mid-September, 2021

Starting in mid-September 2021, and peaking around September 18-21, a large number of mostly Haitian migrants crossed the Rio Grande at Del Rio, Texas, a remote sector of the border across from Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico. By September 18, Del Rio’s mayor, citing information from Border Patrol, said that 14,534 migrants were encamped on the riverbank, under and around the border crossing bridge. There, while awaiting their turn to be processed by Border Patrol, they washed in the river and slept in tents, under shelters built out of vegetation, or in the open air.

In response to the Haitians’ rapid arrival, CBP surged 600 Border Patrol agents, CBP officers, and DHS volunteers to Del Rio, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said during a September 20 visit to the sector.

By September 21, CBP had constructed a field hospital and was more systematically providing food. But for the first several days, food and clean water were scarce at the Del Rio site. This forced migrants to wade into Ciudad Acuña, Mexico to buy food at local stores and restaurants, then wade back into the United States with their provisions.

On their return to U.S. soil, some of the migrants, often laden with bags of food, encountered hostile Border Patrol agents on horseback. Photos and videos showed agents appearing to charge at migrants, including some children, at the water’s edge, apparently trying to force them to return to Mexico. One can be heard using a profane slur against Haiti. Some are shown waving or making slapping motions with lariats or long reins, which bore a resemblance to whips.

“Video footage of Border Patrol’s actions in this incident clearly demonstrate that the migrants being encountered by mounted agents did not present an imminent threat,” an ACLU letter describes the scene. “In one video an agent stops a family with small children, makes derogatory and xenophobic comments to the family, and then maneuvers his horse in a way that comes dangerously close to trampling a child.”

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance included testimonies from the migrants.

A Haitian woman, traveling with her husband, aunt, and infant son, went to Acuña to find food for her family.[181] When she returned and attempted to cross the river, she was surrounded by several CBP officers on horseback. When she tried to explain that she had to get back to the encampment to reunite with her child, the CBP officers screamed at her to “get back” and “go back to Mexico.” She witnessed two men fall into the river and disappear below the current. She also witnessed one man tear his leg open after being chased and trampled by a CBP officer on horseback. One Haitian man brought his eight-year-old son to the riverbank to bathe when mounted officers appeared and began chasing down a group of migrants gathered by the Rio Grande.[182] As his son attempted to run away from the CBP officers on horseback, he fell—was nearly trampled by the horse—and suffered cuts and bruises to his legs. He injured his eye, which then became painfully inflamed. The man described the “moment of terror” when he saw his young son fall to the ground. “I thought my son would be killed, right there in front of me.”[183] Terrified and traumatized, they fled the Del Rio encampment that night. Another Haitian man and his pregnant girlfriend were both shoved and pushed by CBP officers in Del Rio when they attempted to cross the Rio Grande with food they purchased in Acuña:

“When we were crossing the river by the bridge, we were met by the CBP agents. Some of them were on horses, some were on foot. As I was trying to cross with my pregnant girlfriend they shoved us. She [my girlfriend] was also shoved and fell to the ground. I don’t speak English well, but I tried to tell the agents that my girlfriend was pregnant. I tried to say it in Spanish. But they continued to abuse us and they kept shoving us across the river.”[184]

In summarizing his experience under the bridge, the man explained, “I wasn’t treated with dignity at the border [in Del Rio]. I was treated worse than animals. I experienced racism and abuse in Brazil, but what I experienced at the border was much worse.”[185]

Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz, a former Del Rio sector chief, claimed the agents were attempting to control the horses with the reins. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote that “this was an apparently isolated encounter, one that soon resolved with those seeking to enter the country and return to or arrive at the camp able to do so.”

Nonetheless, images of uniformed White men on horseback menacing Black people with what looked like whips blanketed U.S. social media on September 19 and 20, inspiring horrified reactions.

Immigrant rights and civil rights groups joined in condemnation. In Miami, 200 Haitian-Americans protesting outside the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office forced road closures. The NAACP tweeted side-by-side “then” and “now” images: a drawing of a slaveholder whipping a Black man next to one of the Del Rio photos. A letter from civil rights groups said Biden’s promises for a more humane immigration policy “are being shredded before our eyes.” Human Rights Watch called it “the latest example of racially discriminatory, abusive, and illegal U.S. border policies that are returning people to harm and humanitarian disaster.”

Reactions in Congress were strong. The images were “horrific and disturbing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “We had not seen the horses and the whips with any other population of people, so that to us goes to racism,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. House Oversight Committee Democrats sent a letter demanding a briefing from Biden administration officials by September 24 (original link).

Strong words also came from the Biden administration. “As it relates to those photos and that horrific video, we’re not going to stand for that kind of inhumane treatment and obviously we want this investigation to be completed rapidly,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. “Human beings should never be treated that way, and I’m deeply troubled about it.”

On September 24, President Joe Biden addressed the images for the first time. “It’s horrible what you saw. To see people like they did, with horses, running them over, people being strapped, it’s outrageous,” he said. “I promise you, those people will pay. There is an investigation underway right now and there will be consequences.”

DHS promised an investigation and disciplinary actions, and suspended the use of horse patrols in Del Rio (original link). However, “There is little reason to have confidence in the department’s willingness to hold its agents accountable,” Chris Rickerd and Sarah Turberville contended at the Los Angeles Times, noting that “CBP’s own records found that it took no action in 96% of 1,255 cases of alleged Border Patrol misconduct between January 2012 and October 2015.”

The DHS Inspector-General declined to take the case, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility shared preliminary findings with the Justice Department in October, to determine whether criminal charges were warranted. As of January 2022, other than a list of next steps that DHS published in mid-November, there had been no further word (original link). It was not until nearly six months after the incident, on March 11, 2022, that the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas decided not to pursue criminal charges. During that period, CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was unable to interview the Border Patrol agents directly involved in the incident.

On July 8, 2022, CBP OPR released its report on the incident (original link). The 511-page document found “failures at multiple levels of the agency, a lack of appropriate policies and training, and unprofessional and dangerous behavior by several individual Agents.”

The report included the following findings about what happened over approximately a half hour on September 19, 2021.

  • There was no evidence that the agents “whipped” the migrants or that the riders’ reins struck any migrants. In future crowd control events, though, CBP will prohibit mounted agents from “twirling” their reins as “a distancing tactic.”
  • “Several mounted Border Patrol Agents used force or the threat of force to drive several migrants back into the Rio Grande River, despite the fact the migrants were well within the territorial boundary of the United States.”
  • In addition to swinging reins, aggressive tactics included charging horses at migrants to keep them from entering, in one case maneuvering a horse very close to a boy, and in another causing a man to fall back into the river; grabbing a man by his shirt and flipping him around; and yelling “unprofessional” comments, including “Hey! You use your women? This is why your country’s s***, you use your women for this.”
  • By pushing migrants back to the river and Mexico, the horse-patrol agents were following orders given not by Border Patrol, but a request from Texas’s state police (Department of Public Safety). Though blocking migrants was not CBP’s objective, the Border Patrol supervisor approved the state agency’s request without checking with higher-ups.
  • This owed much to faulty command and control within Border Patrol. The horse patrol agents’ supervisor “was unable to obtain additional guidance from higher in the USBP chain of command at the time of the request” from Texas DPS. The agents “repeatedly sought guidance from the USBP incident command post” by radio, and backed off after being “eventually told to allow all the migrants to enter.”
  • Though assigned to a crowd control mission—a difficult job with a high risk of escalation and human rights abuse—the horse patrol unit’s members’ responses indicated that they had not received crowd control training. CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said that from now on, horses would not be used for crowd control without the commissioner’s approval.

With the OPR report complete, a CBP Disciplinary Review Board, separate from OPR and made up of senior officials, was to consider punishments for the agents involved. As of July 2022, four agents may face administrative measures. CBS News reported that no firings are recommended, and that the Review Board proposed a seven-day suspension for the supervisor who approved the Texas state DPS request.

The agents’ defenders—including the National Border Patrol Council union, House Homeland Security Committee ranking Republican Rep. John Katko (R-New York), and several former Border Patrol leaders in a mid-June letter—argue that they are not receiving due process because President Biden had demanded in September 2021 that they “pay” for their actions (original link, original link). Border Patrol union President Brandon Judd said that the union would appeal any punishments.

Critics of the OPR report note that it only covered what happened in the approximate half-hour on September 19 when the horse patrol was caught on camera, and that investigators did not speak to a single Haitian migrant. Nora Phillips, legal director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, told National Public Radio:

the official report contains some important inaccuracies. For example, she says, Border patrol agents did strike migrants with their horses’ reins. She’s also disappointed that investigators focused only on the incident with the horse patrols, while basically ignoring the squalid conditions in the camp.

“There was no investigation into that,” she said. “The lack of food, the lack of water, the lack of medical care. And that’s what’s also really disappointing.”

In September 2022, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, African Communities Together, and UndocuBlack Network filed a lawsuit to compel DHS to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for records regarding the treatment of Haitian migrants during the Del Rio event. “U.S. agents harassed and intimidated migrants, including through physical force. And then, abruptly, the government rounded up and expelled thousands of the migrants, forcing many to return to Haiti, a country that could not safely receive or protect them,” the groups’ complaint reads.

— Shaw Drake, “U.S. Border Patrol’s use of horses and verbal abuse against migrants in Del Rio, TX” (El Paso: ACLU Texas, September 21, 2021) https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/aclu_tx_cbp_oig_letter_re_border_patrol_in_del_rio.pdf.

— Sarah Turberville, Chris Rickerd, “Abusing migrants while on horseback? That fits with the Border Patrol’s long history of brutality” (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2021) https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-09-22/haitian-migrants-del-rio-border-patrol-horseback.

— Philip Bump, “What one photo from the border tells us about the evolving migrant crisis” (Washington: The Washington Post, September 20, 2021) https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/09/20/what-one-photo-border-tells-us-about-evolving-migrant-crisis/.

— Tweet from NAACP @NAACP (Twitter: September 21, 2021) https://twitter.com/NAACP/status/1440433080477519872.

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.

— “US: Treatment of Haitian Migrants Discriminatory” (Washington: Human Rights Watch, September 21, 2021) https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/09/21/us-treatment-haitian-migrants-discriminatory.

Letter to Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller from six members of Congress (Washington: U.S. House of Representatives, September 22, 2021) https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/read-the-letter-from-lawmakers-demanding-answers-on-treatment-of-haitian-migrants/9e164db6d5b98eed/full.pdf.

— Annika Kim Constantino, “Biden condemns Border Patrol agents’ treatment of Haitian migrants, vows they will face consequences” (United States: CNBC, September 24, 2021) https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/24/biden-condemns-border-patrol-treatment-of-haitian-migrants-in-del-rio.html.

Tweet from Homeland Security @DHSgov (Twitter: September 20, 2021) https://twitter.com/DHSgov/status/1440090164425019397.

Letter from former Border Patrol officials to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Washington: Washington Examiner, June 21, 2022) https://www.scribd.com/document_downloads/direct/579239144?extension=pdf&ft=1657135495&lt=1657139105&user_id=352475425&uahk=pzqbundOpAFXYAdmeffgbzGwQPI.

— Anna Giaritelli, “Border Patrol chiefs under three presidents warn Biden on ‘whipping’ discipline” (Washington: Washington Examiner, June 21, 2022) https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/border-patrol-chiefs-warn-biden-on-whipping.

— Eileen Sullivan and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “Review Finds Agents Used Unnecessary Force Against Black Migrants” (New York: The New York Times, July 8, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/08/us/politics/border-patrol-investigation-migrants.html.

— Rep. John Katko, “Katko on the Del Rio Horse Patrol Investigation Report” (Washington: House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Republicans, July 8, 2022) https://republicans-homeland.house.gov/katko-on-the-del-rio-horse-patrol-investigation-report/.

— Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Nicole Sganga, “Border Patrol agents on horseback used “unnecessary” force against Haitian migrants last year, investigators find” (United States: CBS News, July 8, 2022) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/border-patrol-agents-on-horseback-used-unnecessary-force-against-haitian-migrants-last-year-investigators-find/.

CBP Office of Professional Responsibility – Del Rio Horse Patrol Unit Investigation Report (Washington: CPB OPR, July 8, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/cbp-office-professional-responsibility-del-rio-horse-patrol-unit-investigation.

— Joel Rose, “After Del Rio, some Haitian migrants found safety in the U.S. But many have not” (United States: National Public Radio, September 7, 2022) <https://www.npr.org/2022/09/07/1120775143/after-del-rio-some-haitian-migrants-found-safety-in-the-u-s-but-many-have-not>.

— Bernal, Rafael. “Haitian Advocates File Lawsuit against Biden Administration over Del Rio.” The Hill. September 30, 2022. <https://thehill.com/latino/3669222-haitian-advocates-file-lawsuit-against-biden-administration-over-del-rio/>.

Footnotes from above:

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

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Crowd Control, Racial Discrimination or Profiling, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, OPR Investigation Closed, Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Single Adult

April 4, 2021

Three Black CBP officers stationed near the Canadian border in Michigan filed a lawsuit alleging that the agency “routinely targets and harasses” Black travelers. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the suit pointed out that “nationwide, Black people account for less than 6% of the total CBP workforce of 21,185. More than 62% of employees are white; another 25% are Hispanic.” (The U.S. Census estimated that 13.8 percent of the U.S. population was “Black or African American alone” in 2021.)

— Tresa Baldas, “Customs and Border Protection officer says racism at Michigan-Canada border happens daily: ‘It needs to be exposed’” (Detroit: Detroit Free Press, April 4, 2021 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/04/04/cbp-officers-lawsuit-racial-profiling-issue-us-canada-border/7076949002/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Lawsuit or Claim Filed

Victim Classification: Black

August 30, 2020

Politico Magazine published an account by Tianna Spears, a Black U.S. diplomat who had been assigned to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez. She described CBP officers subjecting her to regular, blatant racial profiling whenever she crossed back into El Paso. “[O]fficers in primary inspection still made sarcastic comments, cruel jokes and belittling jabs implying I was not a U.S. diplomat, not a U.S. citizen and had stolen my own car.”

One time, an officer told me, which I wrote down: Just because you say you work at the consulate does not mean that you are not smuggling drugs into the country. I asked him to explain.He responded, I don’t know, but I do know what drug dealers and smugglers look like. He stepped forward, crossed his arms, looked at me up and down, and said: You know what I mean.

Spears said that as of August 2020, 18 months after complaining to CBP’s upper management, she got no response to her complaint from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

— Tianna Spears, “I Was a U.S. Diplomat. Customs and Border Protection Only Cared That I Was Black.” (Washington: Politico Magazine, August 30, 2020) https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/08/30/black-us-diplomat-customs-border-protection-cbp-detained-harassed-325676.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation, Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, U.S. Citizen or Resident

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

July 5, 2020

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “P.G.L.,” a legal permanent U.S. resident whose partner was detained by Border Patrol in Sunland Park, New Mexico. He believes that agents racially profiled him and his partner, and used abusive language with them.

My name is P.G.L., and I am a resident of Sunland Park, New Mexico. My partner and I have been victims of harassment and discrimination by the Border Patrol. On Jul. 5, 2020, at around 9 a.m., we were followed by a truck and a border patrol SUV two blocks from my house. We were on our way to work and stopped at my son’s house, but he wasn’t there, so we headed to Mesa Verde St. when they stopped us.

They asked us where the bodies were of those we were going to pick up. I responded that we did not do that type of work. I told them my boss lived a street away, and I am a roofer. This was when an officer asked me to show him my legal documents. My partner was asked first, and she responded that she had a border crossing visa. Then they asked me, and I told them I did not have them with me but that I was a legal permanent resident (LPR). They did not believe me and thought I was lying.

One officer started investigating my partner. They told her they were going to arrest her and then gave her an option to either see an immigration judge or be sent back to Mexico since her visa was still valid and she could use it to come back. The officers became very rude and had my partner get into their truck. I was unable to speak to her. They took me back to my house to get the proof that I was an LPR. I asked them to allow me to speak to my partner because she was the one who knew where my documents were, but they refused and continued to be rude. I went inside the house to show them the proof, and I brought my partner a backpack and her purse.

I have been communicating with my partner over the phone. She tells me she is doing fine, but she is worried about her two daughters because they had to stay with their aunt. Her daughters are both U.S. citizens; they are 12 and 10 years old.

I am worried about my partner’s daughters’ safety; they fled because of domestic violence from their biological dad. I feel that I was discriminated against because of my appearance; for being Hispanic. Now I am scared to drive and be stopped again. I also want to add that a week before this incident, I had been followed and stopped by the same officer, questioned, and let go. Although at the time I had not paid attention to his name, I recognized him this time. I felt I had been harassed by the border patrol.

The Border Network for Human Rights stated that it shared this and other testimonies in its February 2022 abuse monitoring report “with the agencies involved.”

The State of Human Rights at the U.S. – Mexico Border: Abuse Documentation 2022 Campaign Report (El Paso, Border Network for Human Rights, February 22, 2022) https://bnhr.org/abuse-documentation-2022-campaign-report/.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Dangerous Deportation, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Domestic or Gender-Based Violence Victim, Single Adult, U.S. Citizen or Resident

June 16, 2020

In a claim filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act a year after these events, on June 16, 2021, Janine Bouey, a 60-year-old U.S. Army veteran and former Los Angeles Police Department officer, reported suffering inhumane treatment at the border. Bouey stated that she was repeatedly shackled, sexually assaulted (at one point with a canine), sworn at, and forced to disrobe without privacy by CBP agents who pulled her out of line while she was crossing into San Diego from Tijuana.

Alliance San Diego reported:

One year ago today, Janine was returning from her dentist and crossed the U.S. border at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. She was singled out by a CBP officer while waiting in line. She was the only Black woman to be pulled from the line for questioning. The officer asked for Janine’s home address even though he was in possession of her license. The officer suggested that Janine might want his home address. The officer proceeded to escort her to a nearby building where she was eventually assaulted.

Ms. Bouey, who is Black, was released without any allegation of wrongdoing. When she complained to a younger Black CBP officer, he replied, “These things happen.” Ms. Bouey alleged that CBP officers committed “sexual assault, assault, battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, Bane Act violations, Ralph Act violations, equal protection violations, and California Civil Code section 49 violations.”

According to Alliance San Diego, “Janine filed a complaint with DHS about the officer’s actions shortly after the incident. To her knowledge, no disciplinary action was taken and the officers involved in the incident remain at work.” Her June 2021 claim was the first step in a lawsuit against DHS.

— Law Offices of Joseph M. McMullen, “Federal Tort Claims Act Administrative Claim, Claimants: Janine A. Bouey (DOB: 8/18/1959)” (San Diego: June 9, 2021) https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/alliancesandiego/pages/3234/attachments/original/1623816903/FTCA_Claim.pdf?1623816903.

— “Abuse, Assault and Impunity at DHS Must Stop: Former LAPD Officer Subjected to Sexual Assault by DHS Sues the Agency” (San Diego: Alliance San Diego, June 16, 2021) https://www.alliancesd.org/abuse_assault_and_impunity_at_dhs_must_stop_former_lapd_officer_subjected_to_sexual_assault_by_dhs_sues_the_agency.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Racial Discrimination or Profiling, Sexual Assault or Harassment

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Lawsuit or Claim Filed

Victim Classification: Black, Female, U.S. Citizen or Resident