12 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Return of Vulnerable Individuals”

Early April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a man whom Border Patrol injured and expelled into Mexico near Nogales, Arizona:

Last week, a Border Patrol agent ran over Marco Antonio (not real name), a Guatemalan national, with his four-wheeler before pushing him to the ground and detaining him. The BP agent first hit him with the front bumper and then ran over his right leg with one of the front wheels. Another BP agent realized that Marco Antonio could not walk, and so picked him up and carried him to another four-wheeler to transport him to the hospital. At the hospital, Marco Antonio was treated for severe dehydration and a dislocated knee joint. Hours later, he was transported to the border in Nogales, where they arrived around noon. Mexican immigration officials refused to accept him because of his condition, as he was unable to walk. Border Patrol then drove him back to the station, and later that day, they took him back to Nogales, where they expelled him on or after 10PM, when there were no Mexican authorities to receive him.

— “April 14 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 14, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Dangerous Deportation, Pedestrian Strike, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

Late March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported about a woman whom Border Patrol expelled to Nogales though she had proof of being raped by her smugglers. The agent, she said, confiscated her medical document:

Border Patrol expelled a young Guatemalan woman to Nogales, Mexico last week despite the fact that she had been repeatedly raped by the guides that brought her across the border into the US. Her attackers threatened her life if she went to the authorities. One Border Patrol agent insinuated that the woman was lying about the attack, and tried to convince her not to undergo a forensic examination that would verify the abuse. When she showed paperwork from the hospital examination to a Border Patrol agent as proof of the attack, asking that he not send her back to Mexico, the Border Patrol agent confiscated the paperwork and did not return it to her.

— “March 31 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 31, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult

January 6, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative reported on recent cases of expulsions into Mexico of particularly vulnerable migrants who do not speak Spanish:

Sixteen percent of those arriving at KBI in the last two weeks of December originally migrated from Haiti. Several of the Haitian families could not respond to simple questions in Spanish without the assistance of an interpreter. In some cases, one individual from the group spoke enough Spanish to interpret for others who did not speak Spanish. One young Haitian woman described experiencing discrimination during their journey north. She reported that her family was extorted in every country they traveled through, including members of the Mexican National Guard who stopped them in southern Mexico, opened up their backpacks, and took whatever they wanted.

Numerous indigenous families from Guatemala have been expelled to Nogales under Title 42, putting them at particular risk of discrimination in Mexico due to language barriers and cultural differences. A Guatemalan family whose primary language is Mam was expelled last week after attempting to cross into the US to seek asylum, as was a Guatemalan man whose primary language is Cakchiquel.

— “January 6 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 6, 2021)

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Guatemala, Haiti, Indigenous

January 6, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A man from Honduras was expelled to Nogales, Sonora late December in a state of extreme dehydration. He was visibly trembling and reported to KBI that for four days he had only drank water, and that he could not keep down any solid food. An ambulance took him from KBI to the hospital, where he received 15 bags of IV fluids.

— “January 6 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 6, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Honduras, Medical Condition, 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). Despite that, a January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of RMX in El Paso, reported several cases of CBP returning vulnerable people to Mexico.

– In December 2021, a gay Venezuelan asylum seeker was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX despite having informed CBP officers of his sexual orientation. While in CBP custody the man endured harassment because of his sexual orientation and asked multiple CBP officers if there were any protections for members of the LGBTQ community but was told “no.” The man reported to Human Rights First that he fears harm in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

– A man with cancer was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX, even though he and his attorneys had informed DHS of his condition. As of mid-December 2021, the Border Project reported that DHS said that the agency was attempting to locate the man in Mexico.

– A Nicaraguan asylum seeker who suffers from chronic migraines was nevertheless returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX in December 2021. The man told Human Rights First that CBP officers did not ask him any questions about his medical condition. The man was returned to Mexico without his medication, which CBP officers discarded while he was in custody. He has suffered several migraines while stranded in a shelter in Mexico.

The Border Project also identified dozens of individuals who CBP officers in El Paso failed to properly exclude from RMX in December 2021 based on DHS’s own screening criteria, including a man living with HIV; a man experiencing pain and limited use of his hand because the Mexican cartel that kidnapped him had amputated part of his finger on a video call with the man’s family to extort money from them; and a dozen LGBTQ individuals, one of whom had been raped and threatened with death in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

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.

— Adolfo Flores, Hamed Aleaziz, “US Border Authorities Have Incorrectly Placed Immigrants With Medical Conditions In The Relaunched ‘Remain In Mexico’ Program, Attorneys Say” (BuzzFeed, December 17, 2021) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/us-border-authorities-wrongly-sought-to-force-asylum.

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

Agency(ies): CBP

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Nicaragua, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult, Venezuela

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

October 21, 2021

“In the past two months alone,” Human Rights First reported,

DHS has denied parole requests for many vulnerable asylum seekers, including a Honduran lesbian couple who were raped by Mexican police, a Honduran family with a seven-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, a homeless Haitian asylum seeker living with HIV, and Mexican LGBTQ+ asylum seekers who were sexually assaulted and beaten in Mexico. Even when CBP officers at ports of entry have granted urgent requests for humanitarian parole, this has often come only after complaints to DHS headquarters – and officers have still refused to parole accompanying family members, leading to family separations.

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Honduras, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Mexico, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult

February 27, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Last weekend the Florence Project was alerted to a pregnant woman at a local hospital who was in Border Patrol custody. Fearing she would be removed without due process and concerned about the vulnerability of pregnant women at the border, the Florence Project requested she be released to the community rather than sent to Mexico. Border Patrol never responded. Two days later the woman reached out from Nogales, Sonora seeking aid.

— “March 4 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 4, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Female, Pregnancy, Single Adult

October 30, 2020

A New York Times, citing “a sharply critical internal email from a senior Border Patrol official,” revealed that U.S. border agencies have been using the Title 42 pandemic expulsion authority to send non-Mexican unaccompanied migrant children alone across the border into Mexico.

“Recently, we have identified several suspected instances where Single Minors (SM) from countries other than Mexico have been expelled via ports of entry rather than referred to ICE Air Operations for expulsion flights,” Border Patrol Assistant Chief Eduardo Sanchez wrote.

This appeared to violate agreements with Mexico for Title 42’s implementation. In addition, the Times explained,

The expulsions put children from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at risk by sending them with no accompanying adult into a country where they have no family connections. Most appear to have been put, at least at first, into the care of Mexican child welfare authorities, who oversee shelters operated by religious organizations and other private groups.

The number of times non-Mexican children have been expelled alone was not clear, the Times reported:

The human rights organization Women’s Refugee Commission, working with several other advocacy organizations, filed a public records request with Mexican authorities and received data suggesting that at least 208 Central American children had been returned to the custody of Mexican authorities between March 21 and June 5. But the Mexican authorities did not specify how many of the children were traveling alone, and not accompanied by adults.

Title 42 was employed much more frequently during the pandemic’s first eight months to expel unaccompanied non-Mexican children to their home countries by plane. That, the Times noted, involved being

held only briefly in Border Patrol facilities or in hotels before being sent to their home countries, often without any notification to their families ahead of time. Some have had to borrow cellphones when they arrive at airports to look for family members who may be willing to take them in.

— Caitlin Dickerson, “U.S. Expels Migrant Children From Other Countries to Mexico” (New York: The New York Times, October 30, 2020) https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/us/migrant-children-expulsions-mexico.html.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Expulsion of Unaccompanied Minor, Inappropriate Deportation, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Unaccompanied Child

Early September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A father of two who fled death threats in Nicaragua arrived in Nogales last week after attempting to cross between ports of entry to request asylum in the U.S. After being abandoned by a guide and waiting with his nephew in the desert for days without food or water, he was detained by Border Patrol. He fainted when they arrived at the detention center, and then was hospitalized for 9 days, during which time he received dialysis for the severe damage done to his kidneys by dehydration.

Border Patrol agents removed him from the hospital in a wheelchair before he received official release from the hospital, and deported him to Mexico with no shoes, socks or underwear, only the hospital gown he was wearing. Hardly able to walk, he was deported alone and forced to walk barefoot over rocky ground to the Mexican immigration office. This, after expressing to numerous Border Patrol agents and hospital staff his fear of returning to Mexico and desire to seek asylum in the U.S.

— “September 17 Update” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Medical Condition, Nicaragua, Single Adult

Early September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A Cuban woman, seven months pregnant, and who had been waiting for ten months with her husband to be processed for asylum in Nogales, recently attempted two border crossings in one day in a small Arizona border town. Despite the couple’s repeated expression of their fear of returning to Mexico to Border Patrol agents, the wife’s vulnerability as a pregnant woman, and the fact that Mexico has not agreed to receive Cubans under Title 42 expulsions, the two were quickly returned to Mexico both times. Rather than further assessing their fear claims, a Border Patrol agent instead suggested the woman might break her own water to prematurely induce labor as her only way to stay in the U.S.

— “September 3 Update” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Inappropriate Deportation, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit, Pregnancy

Early January, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Since MPP returns to Nogales began on January 2nd, CBP has already returned particularly vulnerable individuals, including 3 two-year-old children, 2 one-year-old babies and 3 families that are primarily Mam speaking (despite the fact that indigenous language speakers, especially of non-Mexican languages, shouldn’t be subject to MPP).

— “January 9 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 9, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Return of Vulnerable Individuals

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Indigenous