9 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the victim classification is “Cuba”

March 25, 2022

Activist Scott Nicol posted photographs of Cuban and Costa Rican vaccination cards discarded in a trash bag at a site near the border wall In Mission, Texas. The trash, left by Border Patrol agents, included personal belongings of asylum-seeking migrants who regularly turn themselves in at this site.

—”Scott Nicol @Scott_NicolTX on Twitter” (United States, Twitter, March 25, 2022) https://twitter.com/Scott_NicolTX/status/1507508896272949257.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Disregard of Public Health, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Costa Rica, Cuba

February, 2022

Human Rights Watch reported on CBP’s Title 42 expulsion of Adolfo H. and Gerardo C. (pseudonyms), a gay couple fleeing Cuba and El Salvador who had already “experienced extortion several times by Mexican immigration agents.”

US officials told the couple that Adolfo could stay and seek asylum in the United States because he is from Cuba but that his partner would be expelled, even though border officials had the authority to allow both men in. Instead, they gave them the option of being separated or of being expelled together. They said that while they were in custody, US officials told them to stop holding hands or touching one another.

CBP officers expelled both men back to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

US: LGBT Asylum Seekers in Danger at the Border (New York: Human Rights Watch, May 31, 2022) https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/31/us-lgbt-asylum-seekers-danger-border.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Cuba, El Salvador, LGBTQ

November, 2021

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

In November 2021, DHS separated an 18-year-old Cuban teenager from his parents and younger sister when they sought protection together at the border. While the rest of his family was paroled, DHS transferred the child to the Moshannon Valley Processing Center—a new immigration detention center opened by the Biden administration in Pennsylvania—placed him in removal proceedings and jailed him for over two months. ICE only released him in February 2022 after his attorney at Aldea PJC submitted a parole request.

“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: Cuba, Family Unit

March 7, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK detailed the experience of a Cuban asylum seeker in Border Patrol custody in Yuma, Arizona and Campo (Pine Valley), California.

A Cuban man and his wife crossed into the United States and were detained. He was searched and their documents were confiscated. The man was separated from his wife, even though his wife told the agents they were together.

He was transferred to Campo BP Station in California, and when he was being transferred he was told he would be reunited with his wife at the detention center. While in detention, he was not allowed to shower for five days, and the lights were always kept on.

There, a border patrol agent interviewed him in Spanish. The agent asked him about his relatives but did not ask anything about asylum. The man asked if he could present his case. The CBP agent said no, as that was for a courtroom with a lawyer. The man asked why the agent didn’t ask him why he left Cuba, and the agent still said no. After five days, they transported the man to expel him, very early in the morning.

The man says he was disoriented but once he heard he was being expelled he said he can’t leave without his wife. He was told his wife would be joining him soon. This was not true. He was not reunited with his wife and was expelled to Tijuana, Baja California in the early morning hours. A week later, he tried to cross again at Yuma as his wife was still in CBP custody. He was then expelled to Nogales.

KBI filed a March 24, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On April 23, CRCL emailed that “they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No 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): San Diego, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

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

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

Late February, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of an adult Cuban asylum seeker from his mother in California.

DHS separated a 22-year-old Cuban asylum seeker from his mother in late February 2021 when they entered the United States in California to request protection, detaining him for over three months. Even after he established a credible fear of persecution in late March 2021, ICE continued to detain the young man in the Otay Mesa Detention Center until June 2021. He was released weeks after his attorney at Human Rights First filed a parole request.

“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: Cuba, Family Unit

January 29, 2021

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed Diosmani Ramos, a 23-year-old Cuban migrant, as he emerged from the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas.

Helen Diéguez, Ramos’s partner, told Univisión that when Ramos reached the river bank, the agent was pointing a gun at him. “Diosmani grabbed a stone, the officer told him to drop it, and when the young man did not do so, he shot him in the chest.” When Ramos fell to the ground after being shot, the agent “told him again to drop the stone, he did not drop it because he was on the ground doubled over in pain, and then the agent shot him five more times.”

“If what they wanted was to grab him, there were many ways to do it, not by shooting him six times in the chest. That’s why we believe it was murder,” Diéguez said.

“The incident occurred while the agent was attempting to apprehend a subject and the agent discharged his weapon,” a CBP release noted, adding, “The incident is currently under investigation by the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility, DHS Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (original link).”

— “UPDATE: CBP Statement on Agent Involved Fatal Shooting in Hidalgo, TX” (Hidalgo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, January 29, 2021) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/update-cbp-statement-agent-involved-fatal-shooting-hidalgo-tx.

— “‘Fue un asesinato’: pareja del joven cubano baleado en la frontera por un agente de la patrulla fronteriza de EEUU” (Miami: Univisión, February 2, 2021) https://www.univision.com/local/miami-wltv/fue-un-asesinato-pareja-del-cubano-baleado-en-la-frontera-por-un-agente-de-la-patrulla-fronteriza-de-eeuu.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG, Under FBI Investigation, Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Cuba, Single Adult

September 8, 2020

An October 2020 ACLU document recounted the experience of “Ms. Eva Doe,” who fled Cuba with her husband in June 2019. When they arrived at the Rio Grande Valley’s Hidalgo port of entry to request asylum in September 2019, they were taken into CBP custody. After two days, they were given an immigration court date and sent back across the border into Mexico, under the “Remain in Mexico” program, to await their proceedings. In March 2020, after being brought into the United States for several hearings, an immigration judge denied Ms. Doe’s and her husband’s asylum petition.

The ACLU complaint continues:

They both reserved appeal and were returned to Reynosa for an indefinite period of time. There, the couple faced the tremendous challenges of navigating a global pandemic in a foreign country, without critical resources. Ms.Doe and her husband both fell ill, yet due to their lack of access to medical care, they could not get treatment. Ms. Doe’s husband additionally suffered threats and extortion in Mexico.

Fearful of ever-present threats to their safety, overwhelmed by unrelenting pandemic circumstances, and without legal counsel, the couple was unable to timely submit their immigration appeal. Consequently, the pair made the difficult decision to request asylum once more at a port of entry—this time, in Tijuana. When they arrived at the port of entry, however, U.S. immigration officers told the couple that the border was “closed” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and turned them away.

On September 8, 2020, Ms. Doe and her husband crossed the border between ports of entry, turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents and requesting asylum again. The ACLU continues:

Agents transported Ms. Doe and her husband to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station. Once there, Ms. Doe notified the agents that she was pregnant, even showing them photos from a recent ultrasound she had undergone while in Tijuana. Notwithstanding, Border Patrol agents separated Ms. Doe from her husband immediately after processing.[6]

The Border Patrol forced Ms. Doe to remove all outer layers of clothing, leaving her upper body clothed in only a sleeveless, thin-strapped blouse. Border Patrol agents gave Ms. Doe a floor mat and silver colored plastic (Mylar) sheet to use as a blanket before placing her in a large holding cell.[7] The toilet and sink to which Ms. Doe had access in her holding cell lacked safeguards for privacy. Ms. Doe was never allowed to bathe while in Border Patrol custody and was instead provided a single moist towelette to clean her entire body every three to four days. She was also only provided a small plastic stick with a sponge tip every three to four days to brush her teeth. The Border Patrol kept the cell lights on 24 hours per day, which made it difficult for Ms. Doe to fall asleep. Ms. Doe felt very cold in the holding cell, unable to warm up with the Mylar sheet, and unable to sleep or rest. Despite her multiple requests, Ms. Doe was denied access to her prenatal vitamins and was never given an equivalent supplement while in CBP custody.

Border Patrol then separated Ms. Doe and her husband:

On her seventh day in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe observed agents taking her husband and his belongings out of the holding cell in which he had been detained. She was never given an opportunity to talk to him before he was taken away. She panicked as she saw the agents removing him from the facility, and began banging on the cell door pleading for the agents’ attention. An agent informed Ms. Doe that her husband was being transferred to an ICE detention center and that she would soon be transferred as well. She recalls an agent explaining, to her horror, that many pregnant women are detained in ICE custody and that she could give birth while detained.

As of ACLU’s October 2020 filing, Ms. Doe had been given a November 2020 court date and released from CBP custody. Her husband remained held at ICE’s Otay Mesa Detention Center.

Ms. Doe is currently five months pregnant. Her separation from the father of her child has caused her stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil. She fears that her husband might not be present for their first child’s birth, and that she will have to go through the experience alone without his support. Worse yet, Ms. Doe’s source of greatest distress is the possibility that her husband will be deported to danger in their country of origin, without ever being be able to see or hold their child.

— “Appendix of Unresolved Complaints” (El Paso: ACLU, March 3, 2021): 123 https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/appendix-13-unresolved-oig-complaints.

Footnotes from above:

[6]: On April 15, 2020, the ACLU submitted another administrative complaint regarding the separation of families during CBP detention and processing. A copy of this complaint is appended hereto as Exhibit C. It is also available online. See AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF SAN DIEGO & IMPERIAL COUNTIES, ET AL., ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT RE: SEPARATION OF FAMILIES VIA CBP DETENTION AND PROCESSING, AND THE AGENCY’S REFUSAL TO IMPLEMENT A DETAINEE LOCATOR SYSTEM (Apr. 2020) [hereinafter “April 2020 Complaint”], https://www.aclusandiego.org/wp- content/uploads/2020/04/2020-04-15-OIG-Complaint-3-FINAL.pdf. Today’s second addendum echoes the troubling themes regarding family separation and incommunicado detention set forth in the April 2020 complaint.

[7]: During her first night in custody, Ms. Doe was detained with one other person. For the remainder of her time in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe was detained completely alone and separated from her husband.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

Early September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

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

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

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit, Pregnancy

Mid-July, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

We filed a complaint on behalf of a Cuban couple, who was kidnapped for months in Mexico. A government official in southern Mexico put them in contact with the woman who ended up kidnapping them. After several months they managed to escape, but the woman has continued to send threatening messages and says that she knows they are in Nogales.

When they crossed into the US and were detained, they tried to express their fear of return to Border Patrol agents. However, the agent responsible for processing them only replied “you think I’m here to solve your problems? … All Cubans come here with the same story” and “you are going back no matter what and you will have to figure out what to do.”

Another agent told them there was nothing he could do besides give them a speedy court date. He scheduled them for a July hearing, which has since been rescheduled to October due to the court cancellations. Both were returned to Nogales, Sonora with no access to an interview with a USCIS officer to assess their fear of return.

— “July 23 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 23, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable

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

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit, Kidnap Victim