4 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the victim classification is “Colombia”

May, 2022

A June 16, 2022 report from Human Rights First included examples of three asylum-seeking families separated by CBP personnel at the U.S.-Mexico border during May 2022.

DHS separated a five-year-old Honduran boy from his adult sister and the sister’s children, who were expelled to Mexico under Title 42 in May 2022. The boy’s sister told Human Rights First that he was processed as an unaccompanied minor and is now in an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in South Carolina, while the sister and her children are stranded in danger in Ciudad Acuña unable to seek asylum.

DHS separated a Honduran father from his partner and child, expelling the man to Mexico under Title 42 in May 2022. The man told Human Rights First researchers that his partner and their child were permitted to remain in the United States to continue the asylum process while he is stuck in Ciudad Acuña.

In late May 2022, DHS separated an elderly Colombian woman from her adult daughter and sister and their children after the family sought protection in Laredo, Texas. The woman’s daughter, granddaughter, sister, and niece were released into Laredo to seek asylum. The woman’s sister told Human Rights First that nobody had heard from the woman in the five days since DHS released the family, and she fears her sister was expelled alone to Mexico under Title 42 or enrolled in the Remain in Mexico program.

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, The Nightmare Continues: Title 42 Court Order Prolongs Human Rights Abuses, Extends Disorder at U.S. Borders (New York: Human Rights First, June 16, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/nightmare-continues-title-42-court-order-prolongs-human-rights-abuses-extends-disorder-us.

Sector(s): Del Rio, Laredo

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Colombia, Family Unit, Female, Honduras

May 29, 2022

Biden Is Still Separating Immigrant Kids From Their Families,” read a November 21, 2022 headline from the Texas Observer. Reporters Anna-Catherine Brigida and John Washington recounted the experience of a Colombian lawyer and her family who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in late May 2022. The report used pseudonyms: Victoria, the lawyer, her husband Anton, and their 10-year-old son Felipe.

Several days into their detention:

on or about May 29—the exact date is unclear—Victoria and Felipe were taken to another room from which they could see, but not speak to, Anton. After some paperwork and an interview, an officer told Victoria that they were taking Felipe to have a snack.

“They opened the door, took him away, and then closed the door,” Victoria said. She had heard about family separations, but didn’t think the U.S. government was still taking kids away from their parents.

Victoria sensed something was amiss and began asking officials where her son was. “I don’t know,” immigration officials told her repeatedly. Almost six months later, she hasn’t seen him.

Felipe ended up treated as an unaccompanied minor, in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Border Patrol and CBP apparently made no record of the relationship between parents and child: “It took a month for the ORR to even realize that Felipe still had parents from Colombia who were being detained in the United States,” and that was because Felipe himself explained what happened.

“There was confusion that ORR thought he was found alone in Mexico,” said Daniela Velez, an attorney with NIJC [the National Immigrant Justice Center, which took the family’s case]. “This is such a big deal. This is Felipe being taken away from his parents and no one can explain why or how.” The government has yet to be able to tell her why they separated the parents.

“Since late May,” the report continued, “Felipe has been living in an ORR shelter in Chicago while his parents and uncle remain in U.S. Marshals’ custody in a privately run Texas prison” for the crime of illegal entry into the United States. “Since they were first able to speak by phone in June, Felipe’s parents have only been permitted 15-minute phone calls once a week.”

HHS data show that 102 migrant children were separated from parents during fiscal year 2022. (Original link)

— Brigida, Anna-Catherine, and John Washington. “Biden Is Still Separating Immigrant Kids From Their Families.” The Texas Observer, November 21, 2022. <https://www.texasobserver.org/the-biden-administration-is-still-separating-kids-from-their-families/>.

— “Monthly Report to Congress on Separated Children.” Washington: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022. <https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/september-2022-monthly-report-on-separated-children.pdf>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Colombia, Family Unit

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

January 5, 2022

In the January 8, 2022 San Diego Union-Tribune, reporter Kate Morrissey recounted the experience of two Colombian men who, on January 5, were the first to be sent back to Tijuana under the revived “Remain in Mexico” program. She found that what they underwent “included many of the issues that plagued the program under the Trump administration.”

The Biden administration’s December 2 guidance for the restarted program promised access to counsel. But Morrissey found that “the two Colombian men were not allowed to speak with attorneys while in U.S. custody.” The wife of one of the men, a green card holder in the United States, could have hired an attorney for him to support his claim of fear of return to Mexico, but officials denied his request to call her.

The men, who had turned themselves in to U.S. personnel in order to seek protection after receiving urgent threats in Colombia, recounted poor treatment in CBP custody. They were placed in a cell in a Border Patrol station with “dozens of other men,” forced to sleep on the floor for nearly a week, with lights always on, for lack of bed space. They were not given an opportunity to bathe or shower. “Though they do not speak much English, they realized that agents were speaking badly about them, they said. They recognized words like ‘stupid’ and phrases like ‘go back to your country.’”

As required by the new guidelines, a Border Patrol agent asked the men if they were afraid to return to Mexico, although they said “another agent tried to keep that official from asking the question.” Under the Biden administration’s new guidance, after expressing fear the men were entitled to 24 hours to contact an attorney before speaking with an asylum officer. It was during those 24 hours, they said, that CBP personnel refused to allow them “to make any calls or otherwise access legal counsel.”

They said an agent told them that no matter what happened, they would be sent back to Mexico. So, when the asylum officer asked if they wanted to wait longer in custody in order to access attorneys, the men waived that right, not wanting to spend more time in the crowded cell with their fate already decided.

The men added that they were not asked detailed questions about their medical history, even though the Biden administration’s new guidelines specify medical conditions for exemption from the program (original link). Though the guidance directs that those subject to Remain in Mexico are to receive COVID-19 vaccinations if they need them, one man who had only received the first of his two shots was sent over the border before officials could administer his vaccine.

CBP meanwhile confused the men’s paperwork, Morrissey found. Each man had the first page of the other’s notice to appear in court. And at first, they were scheduled for hearings months beyond the six-month limit that the Biden administration had agreed with Mexico. They managed to reschedule for February after raising the issue with their asylum officer.

Now in Tijuana, the Colombian men told Morrissey that they are “confused and terrified.” They refused to provide their names, fearing that their notoriety leaves them exposed to extortion or attack. “We’re the two from Colombia,” one said. “Everyone knows we’re them. We already have problems.”

— Kate Morrissey, “U.S. failure to follow Remain in Mexico rules show program hasn’t changed as promised” (San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 8, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-01-08/remain-in-mexico-returns-to-tijuana.

— Robert Silvers, “Guidance regarding the Court-Ordered Reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, December 2, 2021) https://www.dhs.gov/publication/court-ordered-reimplementation-mpp-policy-guidance.

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

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

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Access to Counsel

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Colombia, Single Adult