7 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Threat of Violence”

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:

August 2021

“In August 2021, DHS subjected three Nicaraguan political dissidents to a lateral expulsion flight after they sought protection near McAllen, Texas,” reads a Human Rights First report.

DHS officers verbally abused them, threatening to release dogs to attack them. The officers woke the men at 1:00 am, handcuffed them, and forced them to stand for more than two hours before the expulsion flight. The officers lied to the men telling them that they would be sent to California and permitted to pursue their asylum cases, but instead expelled them to Tijuana. From there, Mexican immigration officials transported them to Mexico’s southern border and attempted to deport them to Guatemala, but Guatemalan immigration authorities refused to accept them, leaving them stranded in southern Mexico, according to Anaís Catalina, an advocate assisting them.

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

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, San Diego

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Threat of Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult

April 17, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed a Salvadoran asylum-seeking family’s violent Border Patrol apprehension and subsequent inability to seek asylum, before being expelled under Title 42.

A Salvadoran woman, her 10-year-old daughter, 1-year-old son, brother, cousin, and cousin’s daughter, entered the United States on April 17, 2021. They saw a Border Patrol truck arriving and waited for it to arrive so they could ask for asylum.

The Border Patrol agent who got out of the truck was enraged. He pulled a gun on the mother and family. He berated them, calling them “damned criminals,” “rats,” “terrorists,” and “criminals,” as they cried and asked for asylum. He spoke English and Spanish but spoke Spanish poorly, but the Salvadoran woman said she understood enough. He continued to pull his gun on them even though they were not posing any threat to his safety. They were unarmed and with children. She believed that he was going to kill them.

Then, another agent arrived and calmed the first agent down. Other agents and vehicles arrived to transport them. She told those agents that they were seeking asylum, but they said they didn’t speak Spanish.

Once they were transported to an open-air outpost, she asked the agents there for asylum and got the same answer. Then they were transported to a permanent building [the Nogales Border Patrol station] where they were inspected by a doctor. She told the doctor she wanted seek asylum and he just said good luck. At the facility, she told several more agents she wanted to seek asylum. Despite telling 7 or 8 different agents that they were hoping to seek asylum in the United States, they were repeatedly told that no one spoke Spanish and were never given a fear assessment. They were all expelled to Nogales, Sonora.

KBI filed a July 13, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The organization reported, “As of 8/17/2021, five weeks after the initial complaint was filed, KBI has received no response to this complaint.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Threat of Violence, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit

Early April, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported: “A young Guatemalan man expelled to Nogales, Sonora under Title 42 last week reported that Border Patrol agents threatened to run him over with their four wheeler. They also intimidated him and said things like, ‘Why are you even here?'”

— “April 15 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, April 15, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Threat of Violence

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

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Single Adult

February 28, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK reproduced a Honduran woman’s account of the treatment that she, her daughter, her neighbor, and her neighbor’s daughter received in Border Patrol custody in Arizona, before being expelled into Mexico.

They were taken to a border facility which had other immigrants. The agents took the fingerprints in a rough manner, which caused her daughter to cry out in Spanish that her mom was good and the police should not take her away. The agents then got angry and insulted them, calling them “rats.” Their belongings were confiscated (bags, clothes, diapers, formula for babies). They did not give them water when they asked for some because they were thirsty from walking. Three hours later, they gave them juice and crackers. Despite the facility being cold, they were not permitted to put on any outerwear they brought with them.

The next day, when they were being transported out of the facility and the woman asked for their jackets, an agent threatened to shoot them; saying “you should have thought about that before you brought your daughter here” and “Don’t move! I’ve got a gun and I am not afraid to use it.” Her daughter’s lips were cracked because of the cold. While they were being transferred, they were kept out in the cold while the agents went to a place with heat. When she asked for a new diaper for her daughter, the agent denied her this. Her daughter went 18 hours in a soiled diaper. They were expelled to Nogales.

On 3/31/2021, three weeks after the initial complaint was filed [March 5], KBI received an email from CRCL which stated, “CRCL has reviewed the information you provided, in which Ms. Ramos Euceda alleged that she and her minor daughter were mistreated by US Border Patrol (USBP) agents following their apprehension by USBP and experienced inadequate conditions of detention at the Nogales Border Patrol Station while in USBP custody. Based on information we received from other sources, CRCL is investigating allegations of violations of civil rights and civil liberties in the Tucson Border Patrol Sector, including Nogales. CRCL plans to conduct an onsite investigation of the Tucson Sector later this year, and we will consider the allegations and concerns you sent us on behalf of Ms. Ramos Euceda.” No additional details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Non-Return of Belongings, Threat of Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

Late February, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A young Salvadoran man traveling with his sister arrived at our migrant center after being expelled under Title 42 last week. While he was in CBP custody, a Border Patrol agent yelled at the group he was traveling with: “Don’t move, you “M—- F—-rs.” The agent threatened that if they so much as moved, he would release the dog to “tear them into sh–.” While detained by CBP, they did not receive any food, and were not allowed to go to the bathroom until they repeatedly insisted. They were expelled to Nogales, Sonora at 12AM, when the Mexican immigration office was closed and there was no one there to receive them, so they slept outside the INM office in the cold. When they arrived at KBI, they had gone about 3 days without eating.

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Food or Water, Threat of Violence

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit

Late May 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A Guatemalan woman who arrived at the KBI migrant aid center this week shared that after losing her job during the pandemic, and with no economic recovery in sight in her town, she migrated north to find a way to support her family. She crossed the border with a group, including several minors, and was apprehended after walking about 25 hours in the desert. The Border Patrol agents who apprehended them threatened that if the group tried to run, he would release his dogs to chase them, and if they were bitten or injured as a result, it was their fault.

— “May 27 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, May 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Threat of Violence

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

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, Single Adult