79 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in “Border-Wide”

August 16, 2022

“Family members are still being separated under some circumstances” at the border during the Biden administration, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “including if a parent has a criminal history, has health issues, or is being criminally prosecuted.” A DHS report to Congress counted 227 family separations in 2021 (original link).

— Kate Morrissey, Family Separations at the Border Continue Under Biden (San Diego: The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 16, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-08-16/family-separations-at-the-border-continue-under-biden.

Family Unit Actions Report October 1, 2020-September 30, 2021 (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, March 23, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/22_0323_plcy_family_unit_actions_report_fy21_September_0.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

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:

August 1, 2022

Data obtained by the Cato Institute show that, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, CBP personnel have used the Title 42 health provision to expel thousands of families with toddlers and babies into Mexico in the post-midnight hours, despite safety risks. The statistics “show that as of May 31, CBP had used its Title 42 ‘health’ authority to expel 30,806 children ages 3 and under—with about 41 percent of these expulsions occurring at midnight or later,” noted a blog post from Cato’s associate director of immigration studies, David Bier.

Under normal circumstances, CBP’s repatriation agreements with Mexico prohibit removals to Mexican border towns between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM, except under emergency circumstances. Title 42 expulsions have occurred without regard to these repatriation restrictions. “The Biden Administration is actually expelling more children at night than even the Trump Administration did,” Cato noted.

— David J. Bier, “CBP Is Expelling Thousands of Infants and Toddlers to Mexico After Midnight” (Washington: Cato at Liberty, August 1, 2022) https://www.cato.org/blog/cbp-expelling-thousands-infants-toddlers-mexico-after-midnight.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit

July 25, 2022

Reuters and the Washington Examiner reported that CBP counted 151 “CBP-related” deaths during the 2021 fiscal year. The term refers to deaths in CBP custody, at a port of entry or checkpoint, or while trying to elude CBP personnel.

— Mica Rosenberg, Kristina Cooke, Daniel Trotta, “The Border’s Toll” (United States: Reuters, July 25, 2022) https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-immigration-border-deaths/.

— Anna Giaritelli, “Migrant deaths at southern border soar to new high under Biden” (Washington: Washington Examiner, July 25, 2022) https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/migrant-deaths-at-southern-border-soar-to-new-high-under-biden.

Notification and Review Procedures for Certain Deaths and Deaths in Custody (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, September 22, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/document/guidance/notification-review-procedures-for-certain-deaths-and-deaths-in-custody.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

July 18, 2022

Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) show that CBP was among DHS agencies that purchased large amounts of location data from a contractor that harvested it from hundreds of millions of mobile phones across the United States. “In just three days in 2018, the documents show that the CBP collected data from more than 113,000 locations from phones in the Southwestern United States—equivalent to more than 26 data points per minute—without obtaining a warrant,” Politico reported. “By searching through this massive trove of location information at their whim, government investigators can identify and track specific individuals or everyone in a particular area, learning details of our private activities and associations,” the ACLU warned.

— Shreya Tewari, Fikayo Walter-Johnson, “New Records Detail DHS Purchase and Use of Vast Quantities of Cell Phone Location Data” (United States: American Civil Liberties Union, July 18, 2022) https://www.aclu.org/news/privacy-technology/new-records-detail-dhs-purchase-and-use-of-vast-quantities-of-cell-phone-location-data.

— Alfred Ng, “Homeland Security records show ‘shocking’ use of phone data, ACLU says” (Washington: Politico, July 18, 2022) https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/18/dhs-location-data-aclu-00046208.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Civil Liberties or Privacy Infringement

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

July 7, 2022

On July 14, the Intercept reported on a July 7 CBP briefing memo prepared ahead of a leadership meeting with the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG). It advises non-cooperation with the oversight agency, instructing

on how to push back against what it calls the inspector general’s ‘persistent’ request for ‘direct, unfettered access to CBP systems,’ as part of its ‘high number of OIG audits covering a variety of CBP program areas.’ In a section titled ‘Watch Out For/ If Asked,’ the memo describes a number of exemptions Customs and Border Protection can rely on to evade records requests from the inspector general’s office—including national security exemptions.

Ken Klippenstein, “Secret Service Deleted Jan. 6 Text Messages After Oversight Officials Requested Them” (United States: The Intercept, July 14, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/07/14/jan-6-texts-deleted-secret-service/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

June 15, 2022

The Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times reported on Border Patrol “challenge coins,” available on eBay and elsewhere, depicting with pride the September 2021 Del Rio incident in which mounted agents charged at Haitian migrants on the banks of the Rio Grande.

“Whipping ass since 1924” and “Haitian Invasion,” reads one coin rendering the iconic September 2021 photo of a Border Patrol agent on horseback grabbing a Haitian migrant’s shirt.

These are not official items, and the coins’ tie to active-duty agents remains unclear. “These coins anger me because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.

CBP was investigating the coins’ origin and told the Los Angeles Times that it will send cease-and-desist letters “to vendors who produce unauthorized challenge coins using a CBP trademarked brand.”

Andy Christiansen, a Utah-based vendor, told National Public Radio “that he still has about 20 coins left and intends on putting them up for sale again.” Christiansen said he did not produce the coins: he purchased them as part of a box of coins that was lost or damaged in shipping and put up for auction. Christiansen said that his stock was “flying off the shelf” and that one coin’s auction price rose to $500.

— Michael Wilner, Jacqueline Charles, “Border Patrol Investigating Coin Memorializing Treatment of Haitian Migrants in del Rio” (Miami: The Miami Herald, June 15, 2022) https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article262498842.html.

— Hamed Aleaziz, “Coins Depicting Border Patrol Agent Grabbing Haitian Migrant Trigger Investigation” (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-16/coins-border-patrol-haitian-immigrants.

— Jaclyn Diaz, “Ebay Seller Says Coins Depicting Haitian Migrant Incident at Border May Be Sold Again” (National Public Radio, June 20, 2022) https://www.npr.org/2022/06/17/1105901312/ebay-seller-challenge-coins-border-patrol-horseback-haiti-migrants-mexico.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

April, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) in Nogales, which issues frequent reports of misconduct to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), noted that the agency has begun closing complaints that, in fact, remain open.

In the last month, we have received notifications from the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that 8 separate complaints we had filed regarding abuses under Title 42 were being closed because of ongoing litigation and instructed us to file new complaints after the resolution of the litigation if there were pending issues. We have never before received such correspondence from CRCL. Not only does it indicate an avoidance of the office’s responsibilities, but it will also artificially inflate the statistics they report to Congress on the number and percentage of complaints that were “closed” when in fact they remain unresolved. Such efforts to avoid exercising oversight are widespread and were also reflected in recent reports that DHS OIG had deleted or delayed reports for years on DHS law enforcement misconduct.

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

Sector(s): Border-Wide, Tucson

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight

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

Victim Classification:

April 20, 2022

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Border Patrol has been undercounting the actual number of migrant deaths in the U.S.-Mexico border region. (original link) For instance, Border Patrol in Arizona routinely reports finding roughly half as many remains as the Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants.

Southwest Border: CBP Should Improve Data Collection, Reporting, and Evaluation for the Missing Migrant Program, GAO-22-105053 (Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, April 20, 2022) https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105053.

— Ryan Devereaux, “The Border Patrol Is Systemically Failing to Count Migrant Deaths” (United States: May 9, 2022) https://theintercept.com/2022/05/09/border-patrol-migrant-deaths-gao/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Fatal Encounter

Last Known Accountability Status: GAO Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

April 14, 2022

CBP took 1,919 formal disciplinary actions against members of its 60,000-person workforce in fiscal year 2021, down from 2,021 actions in 2020 and up from 1,629 in 2019, according to a new Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability. (original link).

Just over half of those disciplinary actions (996) were reprimands. In 100 cases were employees removed. Another 2,076 cases ended up with required counselings. These were all roughly similar to 2020 figures.

The report notes 246 CBP employees being arrested a total of 253 times in 2021, a 23 percent increase in arrests over 2020, a year of relatively few arrests. “On average, the employee arrested was 40 years of age and had served just over

10 years with CBP at the time of arrest.” The vast majority of arrests were for “Drug / Alcohol Related Misconduct” or “Domestic / Family Misconduct.” Nine cases were labeled “Corruption,” up from four in 2020.

The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) opened 684 investigations into use of force incidents in 2021, up from 516 in 2020. Twenty-one were for use of deadly force, up from seventeen in 2020. The vast majority of cases were closed because the agents were found not to be violating policy. Of use-of-force cases closed with a disciplinary outcome, 11 resulted in counselings.

OPR opened 1,044 investigations in 2021, down from 1,947 new investigations in 2020. It closed 1,162 investigations, down from 1,994 in 2020.

Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability FY2021 (Washington: CBP, April 14, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/report-internal-investigations-and-employee-accountability-fy2021.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies):

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, DHS OIG investigation Closed, OPR Investigation Closed, Personnel Terminated, Suspension, Reprimand, or Counseling

Victim Classification:

April 7, 2022

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained documents from the DHS Office of Inspector-General (OIG) indicating that the agency’s independent watchdog has been suppressing, delaying, and watering down information about serious patterns of sexual harassment and domestic abuse within the Department’s law enforcement agencies.

The POGO report, “Protecting the Predators at DHS,” offers some shocking findings, as does the New York Times’s April 7 coverage of the report. They include:

  • A 2018 OIG survey found that more than 10,000 CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. That is more than a third of the 28,000 survey respondents. Of these, 78 percent said they did not report the incident, often out of a belief that doing so would derail their careers. Examples included “surreptitious videotaping in bathrooms, unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate sexual comments.” The survey was part of an OIG report for which fieldwork ended two and a half years ago, in October 2019—but the report had still not seen the light of day.
  • Of 1,800 sexual harassment cases within the Department, 445 were at ICE and 382 were at CBP.
  • The unpublished OIG report found that DHS agencies paid 21 employees nearly $1 million in settlements from sexual harassment-related complaints over six years, but there are few records of any investigations or disciplinary actions against the aggressors. One victim received a $255,000 payout. Senior officials at the OIG objected to mentioning these settlements in the as-yet unpublished report.
  • The unpublished OIG report notes that “women made up only 5 percent of CBP’s Border Patrol workforce,” well below the federal law enforcement average of 15 percent.
  • Another OIG report, published in 2020, covered DHS law-enforcement personnel found to have committed domestic violence when off duty. Inspector-General Joseph Cuffari and his staff pushed to withhold many key findings that had appeared in this report’s earlier drafts. Initially, the report found that agents who committed domestic abuse received “little to no discipline.” In an internal memo, Cuffari ordered that removed, calling it “second-guessing D.H.S. disciplinary decisions without full facts.” This language is troubling, as second-guessing disciplinary decisions is something that inspectors-general are often compelled to do.
  • Employing law enforcement personnel with a demonstrated propensity for abusing domestic partners and family members “raises questions about someone’s fitness for the job if they abuse someone they have committed their life to,” James Wong, a former CBP deputy assistant commissioner for internal affairs, told POGO. “How are they going to treat a total stranger they have no relationship with [like a migrant]? Who’s going to stop them?” The OIG report’s draft had raised concerns that allowing these agents to keep their weapons “put[s] victims and the public at risk of further violence,” but Cuffari ordered that language removed for risk of “appearing biased.”

POGO, a non-governmental watchdog group, has published past reports and allegations critical of Cuffari, whom Donald Trump named to the DHS Inspector-General post in 2019. “The suppressed DHS watchdog reports on sexual misconduct and domestic violence are part of a pattern where Cuffari has appeared unwilling to oversee his department as an independent watchdog,” POGO’s report contends. “Sadly, Cuffari himself has an undeniable pattern of removing significant facts and evidence from major reports. As a result of this pattern, his independence and impartiality are in question.”

“Only hours after the story appeared,” POGO notes, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “announced he had become ‘aware of draft unpublished reports from the Office of the Inspector General that underscore the need for immediate action.’ Mayorkas announced the creation of a ‘working group’ to ‘conduct a 45-day review of employee misconduct discipline processes currently in effect throughout DHS.'”

On April 26, 2022, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Inspector-General Cuffari voicing concern about POGO’s findings (original link). “Sexual harassment and misconduct in agency ranks always demand immediate action,” reads the letter, which includes a list of questions to be answered by May 17, 2022. “Any efforts by an OIG to obscure or downplay the seriousness or pervasiveness of the issue, or to improperly delay releasing evidence of misconduct, are inappropriate.”

Cuffari responded to the senators with a May 13 letter blaming “senior DHS OIG officials who preceded me,” “the intransigence of some inspectors,” and OIG staff withholding information from him. (original link). The Inspector-General insisted that the withheld reports were not up to established standards, but the letter did not clearly explain why quality improvements would be delayed for years for reports with such striking and significant findings.

“This is not the response of someone committed to meeting the statutory mandate for inspectors general,” read a Twitter thread from POGO’s director of public policy, Liz Hempowicz. “I would never have written this,” Gordon Heddell, a former Defense Department inspector-general, said of the letter in a June 16 New York Times article. “To me, what he’s saying is, ‘I’m leading a very dysfunctional office.’”

On June 16, DHS announced an effort to reform employee misconduct discipline processes. “When Secretary Mayorkas was made aware of the [unpublished draft OIG sexual harassment] report, he immediately launched a 45-day review into Department-wide employee misconduct discipline processes,” the Department’s statement reads (original link). It continues, “Centralizing disciplinary processes will ensure that allegations of serious misconduct are handled by a dedicated group of well-trained individuals, who are not the employees’ immediate supervisors, at each DHS component agency.”

“The announced reforms underscore a deepening rift between the Homeland Security Department and its inspector general,” the New York Times reported on June 16. “While Mr. Mayorkas has taken steps to address the allegations in the reports, Mr. Cuffari and other senior officials in the inspector general’s office have instead either downplayed the significance of the findings or fiercely defended their removal.”

— Adam Zagorin, Nick Schwellenbach, Protecting the Predators at DHS (Washington: Project on Government Oversight, April 7, 2022) https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2022/04/protecting-the-predators-at-dhs/.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Watchdog Omitted Damaging Findings From Reports” (New York, The New York Times, April 7, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/07/us/politics/homeland-security-inspector-general.html.

— Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Charles Grassley, Letter to DHS Inspector-General Joseph V. Cuffari (Washington: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 26, 2022) https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2022-04-26%20RJD%20CEG%20Letter%20to%20IG%20Cuffari.pdf.

Letter from DHS Office of Inspector General to Senators Durbin and Grassley (Washington: DHS OIG, May 13, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/IG-Cuffari-response-to-Chair-Durbin-and-RM-Grassley-20220513-Redacted.pdf.

— “Tweet from Liz Hempowicz @lizhempowicz” (United States: Twitter, May 18, 2022) https://twitter.com/lizhempowicz/status/1527004986613301251.

— “Secretary Mayorkas Directs DHS To Reform Employee Misconduct Discipline Processes” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, June 16, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/06/16/secretary-mayorkas-directs-dhs-reform-employee-misconduct-discipline-processes.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Department Will Make Changes to Its Disciplinary Process” (New York: The New York Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/16/us/politics/homeland-security-department.html.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Sexual Assault or Harassment, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed, Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: DHS Employee

April 4, 2022

In a Fox News appearance, National Border Patrol Council union President Brandon Judd accused the Biden administration and the Democratic Party of allowing migrants into the United States “to change the demographics of the electorate.” According to journalist Melissa del Bosque, “Judd was echoing the ‘great replacement theory,‘ a white-supremacist belief with roots in the French nationalist movement of the early 20th century.”

Judd’s remarks were the subject of a May 6, 2022 USA Today story, which pointed out that this “Great Replacement” notion had appeared in the manifestos of mass shooters. The story voiced concern that Brandon Judd “is a federal employee, paid by taxpayers and tasked with the sensitive job of helping to police the nation’s border for an arm of the executive branch of government.” Judd texted to USA Today that he had never heard of the Great Replacement theory.

— Melissa del Bosque, “The Border Patrol Union Leads the Charge on Title 42 Misinformation” (United States: The Border Chronicle, April 12, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-border-patrol-union-leads-the.

— Will Carless, “’Replacement Theory’ Fuels Extremists and Shooters. Now a Top Border Patrol Agent Is Spreading It.” (USA Today via msn.com, May 6, 2022) https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/replacement-theory-fuels-extremists-and-shooters-now-a-top-border-patrol-agent-is-spreading-it/ar-AAWYxzI.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

March 11, 2022

A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Security Officer, requested by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, finds few examples of violent domestic extremism among the Department’s workforce (original link). It warns, however, that DHS lacks clear definitions, training, guidances, and procedures to detect and root out extremist behavior.

A “data call” among DHS components identified 35 allegations of potential violent extremist activity between fiscal year 2019 and the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. Upon further review, four of those incidents “involved active participation or support for violent extremist activity,” the rest were deemed either unsubstantiated or miscategorized. The report does not specify how many of these incidents, if any, involved DHS’s border agencies.

“Because of the challenges with identifying, categorizing, and tracking this information,” the report notes, “it is possible that the data call resulted in an under-reporting of the number of allegations made and investigations conducted.”

Domestic Violent Extremism Internal Review: Observations, Findings, and Recommendations (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Security Officer, March 11, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/Report%20to%20the%20Secretary%20of%20Homeland%20Security%20Domestic%20Violent%20Extremism%20Internal%20Review%20Observations%2C%20Findings%2C%20and%20Recommendations.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification:

March 2, 2022

Unnamed Border Patrol agents responded to Fox News with “anger and mockery” to President Joe Biden’s calls, in his March 1 State of the Union address, to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Very few people within CBP believe this administration will actually secure the border, they just do not believe in it,” one agent told Fox News Digital. “All of their actions, comments and practices are solely about pushing in as many illegal aliens as possible, not just those from the Americas but from around the world.”

Other agents were more blunt in their assessment of the president’s remarks.

“F—ing pandering 101, full of sh–,” one agent told Fox News.

“I laughed,” said another

Another said they didn’t even turn it on: “Figured it would be all lies and smoke…We’re losing so many agents, they’re fed up.”

“We all know he doesn’t care about secure borders,” another agent told Fox.

One agent cast doubt on the validity of asylum seekers’ claims, and leveled criticism at immigration judges.

“Immigration judges usually tend to follow the tendencies or intentions of their appointing administration, that means I and many other agents have little faith in them to actually follow immigration law,” they said. “The vast majority of these illegal aliens have no legitimate claims to asylum but administration-picked and taxpayer-funded lawyers will argue otherwise.  Unemployment, inability to buy groceries, domestic violence, bad schools and bad weather are not legitimate claims, period.”

— Adam Shaw, Bill Melugin, Peter Hasson, “Border Patrol Agents Don’t Buy Biden Pledge to Secure Border as They Deal With Migrant Crisis: ‘Full of S—‘” (Fox News, March 3, 2022) https://www.foxnews.com/politics/border-patrol-agents-bidens-pledge-secure-border-migrant-crisis.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

Late February, 2022

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of an 18-year-old Colombian from the rest of her family at the border.

In late February 2022, DHS separated an 18-year-old Colombian child from her parents and younger sibling when they sought protection together at the border and detained her in the Berks County Residential Center. After nearly a month in detention, an immigration judge set a $4,500 bond for her release, according to her attorney at Aldea PJC.

“I’m a Prisoner Here”: Biden Administration Policies Lock Up Asylum Seekers (New York: Human Rights First, April 21, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/i-m-prisoner-here-biden-administration-policies-lock-asylum-seekers.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Colombia, Family Unit

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”

“ImmDef has encountered…twenty-three children who suffered medical neglect,” reads the organization’s complaint, which includes the following examples:

  • R.M.M. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] received medication for three days, but his later requests for medical attention were outright denied. Instead, CBP officers yelled at him and called him names.
  • M.J.C. [a 14-year-old] requested medical attention, which CBP officers denied for three days, instructing her instead to lie down or sleep. CBP officers eventually had to take M.J.C. to a hospital after her symptoms worsened. Doctors later confirmed that her stomach problems were caused by the food provided in the hielera and that she was living with an untreated broken arm that she sustained during her journey. M.J.C. was eventually returned to the CBP facility, where officers withheld her medications and only provided her the same food that made her sick and landed her in the hospital. She became so hungry that she had no option but to eat the dangerous food, which unsurprisingly caused her to experience the same stomach pain. This time, however, she was too afraid to tell the officers that she was in pain and instead suffered in silence.

A June 2022 report from the Marshall Project elaborated on M.J.C.’s story:

It was during that chaos in the spring of 2021 when M.J., an unaccompanied 14-year-old girl from Guatemala, landed in a Border Patrol facility in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Instead of the maximum of 72 hours, as required, she was held for 18 days, according to case records reviewed by lawyers with the Immigrant Defenders, who are representing her in her immigration case.

M.J. had been injured in the last days of her journey across Mexico. She leapt from a moving freight train, landing on her shoulder in a bank of rocks, M.J. said in an interview in California in March. (Because she is a minor in legal proceedings, she asked that her name and exact location not be published.)

With her arm swollen and blue, M.J. turned herself in to the Border Patrol soon after crossing the Rio Grande. Agents kept her in handcuffs for 24 hours, she said, aggravating the ache.

She was moved to a vast tent holding families and minors, most likely, based on court documents, in Donna, Texas. Crammed with dozens of girls into a cell defined by clear plastic walls, M.J. slept on a narrow metal bench for nearly three weeks. To leave the cell to use the bathroom, she had to ask each girl for permission to step over. She never had a change of clothes, she said.

She fashioned a sling from a borrowed cloth to relieve the throb in her shoulder. An attendant, citing security rules, took it away, M.J. said. There were nurses on duty, but they declined to give her medication for the pain.

“No one told you to come to the United States,” she said one attendant told her.

The only food was egg burritos and beans, often half-frozen. On the fourth day, M.J. said, she started to vomit from stomach cramps and shoulder pain. The medical staff, relenting, sent her to a local clinic, where examinations revealed a fractured shoulder and severe dehydration.

A physician gave her a sling and prescribed a painkiller. After she was returned to the detention facility later that day, M.J. said, a guard took away the new sling. She never received the medication.

  • When B.T.P. [a Guatemalan girl] asked for medical assistance due to constant headaches, she was first ignored and later told that she would see a doctor. The doctor never arrived.
  • M.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old from El Salvador] also reported a lack of COVID-19 precautions and general medical neglect. When she first arrived, M.G.G. was not given a COVID-19 test and later discovered that there were people with active cases of COVID-19 held in the hielera with her. She was not provided with a mask.
  • The food in the hielera consisted of burritos that tasted spoiled, and L.L.C. [a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] soon became sick. When she reported feeling ill to medical staff, they did not address her concerns. As a result, L.L.C. was forced to skip meals. L.L.C. witnessed similar treatment of other children when they felt sick—CBP officers refused to provide medicine and only told the children to drink more water.
  • While crossing the border, M.V.P. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] hurt the back of her right knee while jumping over a wall. When she asked to see a doctor in the CBP facility, she was given unidentified pills but did not receive any other treatment or follow up.… After four days in CBP custody, M.V.P. began experiencing severe stomach pains and complained to CBP officers. Four hours later, she was taken to a nurse, who did not treat her. After another nine to ten hours of suffering severe pain, M.V.P. was taken to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with dehydration and put on an IV. When she was discharged from the emergency room, the doctor gave the immigration official paperwork about her condition. M.V.P believes there was more to her condition than dehydration, but she never received a copy of that paperwork.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

— Anna Flagg and Julia Preston, “‘No Place for a Child’: 1 in 3 Migrants Held in Border Patrol Facilities Is a Minor” (The Marshall Project, Politico: June 16, 2022) https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/06/16/border-patrol-migrant-children-detention-00039291.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

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

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

Between January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The Florence Project’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel denying food or water to children in custody:

  • One child reported being held for ten days and receiving little water even though the child kept asking for more. CBP officers swore at the child and called the child a “criminal.”
  • A 16-year-old child was detained for six days in poor conditions and lacked adequate food. The child reported stomach pains from the food the child received and was not given medical attention when it was requested.
  • One child reported that the food provided made the child sick with a headache. When the child examined the wrapper of the burritos served by CBP, they were expired.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”

ImmDef’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel confiscating children’s documents:

  • P.A.M. [a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico] was ultimately hospitalized for two days because she began experiencing contractions and had a high-risk pregnancy. CBP refused to give her the discharge documents that had important information for her follow up appointments.
  • L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador… Upon apprehension, her birth certificate was confiscated and never returned to her, and she was not allowed to make any phone calls.
  • D.S. is a seventeen-year-old child from Romania who was held in CBP custody for five days. When he was taken into custody, CBP confiscated his passport.… D.S. did not have access to sufficient interpretation services and was forced to sign some documents that were never explained to him in Romanian. D.S.’s passport was never returned to him.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Confiscation of Documents

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Mexico, Romania, Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

Between January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

“Approximately 14 children reported being sick or getting sick while in CBP holding centers and not receiving adequate care,” the Florence Project’s complaint reads, citing the following examples:

  • A 16-year-old child was detained for six days in poor conditions and lacked adequate food. The child reported stomach pains from the food the child received and was not given medical attention when it was requested.
  • One child reported having COVID symptoms. CBP officers ignored the child until the child insisted on a COVID test. Upon testing positive, CBP officers refused to assist the child when the child requested toilet paper and water.
  • One child reported getting stomach pains after eating frozen food. The child asked for medical attention but never received it.
  • A child held for five days was very cold and became sick but was not given medical attention despite a request to see a medical provider.
  • One child stated that the child’s sister became sick with a respiratory illness and the nurse told her to just drink water and didn’t provide medicine or a COVID test.
  • A child reported being sick for five days while detained. Although the child was vomiting and had diarrhea, the officers did not provide medical attention. One officer told the child that “if you want medication, you have to stay five more days in detention.”
  • A child reported that the child felt sick while in CBP custody. A CBP officer examined the child and said that the child was fine, but the illness worsened. After the child arrived in ORR custody and was seen by medical processional, the child was immediately instructed to begin taking medication. The child believed that CBP’s failure to provide medical assistance allowed the condition to worsen.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”

“ImmDef encountered forty-two children who were held in unsanitary conditions, 126 children who were forced to sleep on the ground or outside, and 452 children who were detained for longer than 72 hours,” the organization’s complaint reads. “Many children also reported extremely cold temperatures and privacy violations.” Examples include:

  • [L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador, was] forced to lie on the floor without a mattress. She was unable to sleep because light and noise were constant. L.G.O. was never given the opportunity to shower.
  • H.G.C. is a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala who was held in a hielera for three days. H.G.C. was also held in a cell that housed other detainees and contained only one, entirely exposed toilet. H.G.C.’s only hope for privacy was to ask his cellmates to move to the opposite side of the room each time he used the bathroom. During his three days in the hielera, the lights were always on, causing H.G.C. to lose sense of whether it was day or night.
  • G.G.G. is a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala who was detained for four days in a hielera that had bathrooms without doors, leaving him and the other children without any privacy while using the toilet. The facility was kept at very cold temperatures, yet G.G.G. never received a blanket thick enough to keep him warm.… During his four days in CBP custody, G.G.G. was only allowed to make one phone call.
  • O.L.L., an eleven-year-old child from Guatemala, was detained in a hielera for seven and a half days under frigid conditions that caused his lips to turn purple. O.L.L. only speaks Spanish, yet officers spoke to him in English. He was only allowed to make one phone call every three days.
  • [D.S., a seventeen-year-old child from Romania,] was given a mylar blanket but was never provided a toothbrush or toothpaste.
  • [D.C.E., a 16-year-old,] was not given supplies to brush his teeth or take a full shower, and he did not have privacy when using the bathroom. While D.C.E. was detained, the lights were always on in the facility, making it difficult for him to distinguish between day and night. His waking hours were marked by meals consisting of old or spoiled food, which made him sick.
  • CBP officers yelled loudly near her ears [M.J.C., a 14-year-old] to wake her up and only gave her a mylar blanket to keep warm despite M.J.C.’s request for a different blanket. She was forced to sleep on a bench or on the ground close to others, in blatant disregard for the risks of such proximity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. M.J.C. was also repeatedly denied requests to use the toilet and was never given a change of clothes—for eighteen days, she wore the same dirty clothes she had arrived in.
  • M.T.P., B.T.P., and A.T.P. are three sisters from Guatemala who were detained in CBP custody for seven days, during which they experienced mistreatment and medical neglect. The T.P. sisters were placed in a dirty, crowded detention facility where they were held with other children who were sick to the point of vomiting. They were not allowed to shower for the first four days they were detained and reported that CBP failed to undertake any efforts to maintain hygiene or social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sisters felt uncomfortable using the toilets in the facility due to the lack of privacy, and they were not provided with sufficient sanitary supplies. All three sisters experienced issues with the quality of food. M.T.P. became so sick she was forced to stop eating the burritos. Instead, she ate only a cookie and water each day and was afraid to ask CBP officers for alternatives or medicine because she had seen others being yelled at.
  • During her thirteen days in the hielera, M.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old from El Salvador] was never given a blanket or a change of clothes and was only allowed to shower once. By way of explanation, CBP officers swore at her and told her that it “wasn’t a hotel.” Every day, she was woken up early and could not sleep. M.G.G. also reported that she was given old and rotten food. For thirteen days, she was only fed burritos with rice and apples. When she told CBP officers that she felt sick, they told her to drink more water and exercise. However, she was only given a single small bottle of water each day at 6am.
  • L.L.C. [a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] was transferred to a hielera in Texas, where she stayed for the next twelve days. L.L.C. described the walls of the hielera as equivalent to a thick nylon, and she was held in a room approximately the size of a conference room with eighty-one other girls. The cell was so crowded that she was forced to sleep pressed up against the person next to her or sitting up. L.L.C. described being extremely cold day and night. She described feeling like she and the other children were being treated like animals. The food in the hielera consisted of burritos that tasted spoiled, and L.L.C. soon became sick. When she reported feeling ill to medical staff, they did not address her concerns. As a result, L.L.C. was forced to skip meals.… L.L.C. described that it was difficult to sleep because the CBP officers woke them every hour in order to clean the cells and the lights were always kept on. L.L.C. was only able to brush her teeth three times per week, and she was only able to bathe once during the twelve days she was held in the hielera. L.L.C. felt that there was no privacy in the bathrooms, and there were several times when she did not have toilet paper. She was only allowed to make one, two-minute telephone call, and during the call a CBP officer stood within earshot.
  • In the hielera, M.V.P. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] was confined to a cell with around eighty other people, including women with small children. M.V.P. reported that there was nowhere to sit or sleep the first night, and she slept sitting on a metal bench the following nights. The cell also contained a toilet, which was not closed off from the rest of the space. As a result, M.V.P. and her cell mates were forced to use the mylar blankets that they slept with as makeshift curtains to create privacy for the toilet. M.V.P. was not given any opportunity to shower during her time in CBP custody.
  • Once J.N.P. [a 16-year-old] arrived at the hielera, she was forced to bathe with many other girls in one bathroom. There was no privacy except for transparent curtains, and J.N.P. reported feeling very uncomfortable. The girls had to bathe without clothes on, yet officers were present with them in the bathrooms and were rude and disrespectful. When J.N.P. and some of the other girls complained, the CBP officers yelled at them and rushed them out as soon as their five minutes were up. Even after she bathed, J.N.P. developed head lice and dandruff due to the unsanitary conditions. Throughout her time in the hielera, J.N.P. was given egg burritos for every meal, which left her feeling hungry and ultimately gave her stomach pains. When she needed to use the bathroom, there was no privacy—the toilets were separated by walls on the sides but not in the front, and J.N.P. felt uncomfortable using the bathroom because others could see everything. The temperatures inside the hielera were kept extremely cold, and J.N.P. was denied blankets or more clothes when she asked. The cold made sleeping difficult, and J.N.P. was forced to sleep on a thin mat pressed up against strangers due to overcrowding. The lights were also left on the entire time, yet when J.N.P. and other children could not sleep, CBP officers only yelled at them. Throughout her time in the hielera, J.N.P. was not allowed to make any phone calls.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Guatemala, Romania, Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

Between January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The Florence Project’s complaint cites the following troubling anecdotes about children’s conditions in CBP custody:

  • The child was held with a large number of other children and was only given a couch to sleep on. The child only had one opportunity to shower. The child observed cameras inside the showering area and felt very uncomfortable.
  • Seven different children reported feeling unsafe due to cameras being placed in rooms where they were showering.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”

ImmDef’s complaint cites the account of “E.C.C.,” a 13-year-old child “who, for nine days, was detained in a CBP facility in a small room with thirty-five to forty other people, most of whom were adults and none of whom ever received a toothbrush or soap.”

— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

Between January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

“More than 25 children reported being held in holding centers in rooms/areas with unrelated adults,” the complaint reads. “These adults were not family or known to the children. Many of the children reported feeling afraid.”

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Endangerment

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”

ImmDef’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel compelling children to sign documents that they did not understand:

  • A.R.B. was seventeen years old when she was detained CBP custody for eight hours. During that time, she was never provided with a meal and was pressured to sign documents that she did not understand.
  • D.S. [a seventeen-year-old child from Romania] did not have access to sufficient interpretation services and was forced to sign some documents that were never explained to him in Romanian.
  • CBP officers forced to D.C.E. [a 16-year-old] to sign paperwork that was not explained to him in his primary language, and he was never explained his rights as an unaccompanied child in U.S. immigration detention.
  • M.J.C. [a 14-year-old] was forced to sign documents she did not understand. Her requests to make phone calls were either denied or conditioned on her signing paperwork that was written in English.
  • While detained, the T.P. sisters [from Guatemala] reported that the CBP officers did not speak Spanish well and did not explain the documents that they asked each girl to sign. They felt forced to sign these documents and were denied the right to place a phone call on multiple occasions.
  • Before L.L.C. [a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] left the hielera, she was forced to sign documents she did not understand.

“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.

It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.

— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, Romania, Unaccompanied Child

2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

Between 2019 and 2021, attorneys from Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) interviewed approximately 12,731 unaccompanied migrant children at Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities. The organization’s complaint includes numerous examples from 2021 and 2022 of mistreatment of children while in CBP custody.

“1% of children reported physical abuse or excessive force,” reads AI Justice’s complaint, citing the following examples:

  • One child, D.G.M.H., 15, reported having her foot handcuffed to a chair despite being cooperative and answering CBP officers’ questions.
  • H.M.C., 15, reported that if their name was called and they did not respond because they were sleeping, officers would kick them awake. He reports that they wear heavy work boots, and this was very painful.
  • F.C.R., 15, reported being kicked awake when he was sleeping.
  • C.C.L., 10, who was held for over five days, reported feeling hungry and not being able to shower regularly during his time in CBP custody. He states that at one point during his time there he had his mattress taken away. He stated that CBP would take their mattress if they felt someone was misbehaving. He also reported that officers sometimes would use vulgar words directed at them.

— Jennifer Anzardo, Maite García, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Consistent Failure to Comply with the Terms of the Flores Settlement Agreement and Their Own Standards on the Transport, Escort, Detention and Search of Unaccompanied Children” (United States: Americans for Immigrant Justice, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child