15 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct involving “Office of Field Operations” where the victim classification is “Family Unit”

March and April, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado lists several examples of San Diego CBP port-of-entry officers’ refusals to grant humanitarian exceptions to Title 42 for especially vulnerable asylum seekers.

In April 2022, CBP denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Nigerian man with glaucoma and hand tremors who was beaten by police in Mexico; a gay Venezuelan man living with HIV who is partially deaf; a Mexican torture survivor with diabetes; a Haitian woman with a high-risk pregnancy who is experiencing food insecurity; and a disabled Honduran man whose injuries from a car accident have become infected and who needs specialized medical treatment. These requests had been submitted by Ginger Cline, an attorney with Al Otro Lado.

CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry have also recently denied humanitarian exemption requests for a Mexican woman fleeing threats by a cartel who murdered the woman’s husband and whose 12-year- old son has a pacemaker and urgently needs specialized medical treatment; a 14-year-old with a traumatic brain injury he incurred from falling from a two-story building to escape kidnappers; and a two- year-old Honduran asylum-seeking child with severe and worsening epilepsy who suffers from eight- minute-long seizures. Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with Immigrant Defenders Law Center in San Diego, had submitted these requests ultimately denied by CBP.

CBP at the San Ysidro port of entry has failed to respond to humanitarian exemption requests submitted months ago, including for a LGBTQ woman with maternal uterine fibroids who experiences constant bleeding after she was raped twice in Mexico in bias-motivated attacks based on her sexual orientation and for a Mexican domestic violence victim whose husband found her in Tijuana and kidnapped her daughter, according to Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Disability, Domestic Violence Victim, Family Unit, Female, Haiti, Honduras, Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Mexico, Nigeria, Pregnancy, Single Adult, Venezuela

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the days-long separation of a Haitian family in CBP custody, along with allegations of racist language.

An asylum-seeking Haitian family expelled under Title 42 to Haiti and forced to flee again reported in March 2022 that during the expulsion CBP officers separated the parents from their 16-year-old daughter and subjected the girl to racist abuse. The family was detained for days in freezing cold CBP holding cells, with the teenager held separately with other children. She told Human Rights First that during the painful days she was detained away from her parents U.S. officers called her racist names including the N-word.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Family Separation, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Female, Haiti

March, 2022

A report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado discusses CBP’s insistence on expelling members of an imminently threatened Mexican family with an injured teenager in San Diego.

In March 2022 CBP turned away a Mexican asylum-seeking family fleeing Michoacán after the cartel that had threatened to kill them tortured a family member into disclosing their location in Tijuana. Desperate to escape the cartel, the family attempted to climb over the 30-foot border wall, but a 14-year-old girl fell and was seriously injured. CBP expelled the family back to danger in Tijuana under Title 42 allowing only the girl’s mother to remain with her at a San Diego hospital. The family told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “she’s fighting for her life, and we only did it because [the cartel] already knew we were in Tijuana. We didn’t have another option.”

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

— Kate Morrissey, “Ukrainians Only: Racial Disparities in U.S. Border Policies Grow More Obvious” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, March 22, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-03-19/ukrainians-border-title-42.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the experience of a Honduran asylum-seeking family that spent three days in CBP custody before being expelled into Mexico under Title 42.

CBP held an asylum-seeking Honduran family in freezing cells for days before expelling them under Title 42 without their belongings to Mexico where they were kidnapped just prior to attempting to seek asylum near Calexico. During their three days in CBP custody, the family of three children and their mother were forced to sleep on the floor of a freezing cold holding cell with nothing but foil blankets to keep warm. When CBP expelled the family under Title 42 to San Luis Río Colorado, the officers did not return the family’s possessions, including money, luggage, and medications. They received only their shoes, which were soaking wet and covered in dirt causing painful blisters to develop as the family walked in search of a bus to take them to a shelter.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

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

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

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

March, 2022

A report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts CBP’s expulsion of a Mexican family who presented graphic evidence of their protection needs.

In March 2022, CBP officers turned away a Mexican asylum seeker and her children who fled Guerrero after the woman’s husband and teenage son were murdered. The woman brought photos of the chopped-up bodies of her loved ones as evidence of the danger the family had fled. “I’m not here because I want to be here. I’m here to save the lives of my children,” she told the San Diego Union- Tribune. The family spent the night outside the port of entry until Mexican officials pressured them to leave the area.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

— Kate Morrissey, “Ukrainians Only: Racial Disparities in U.S. Border Policies Grow More Obvious” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, March 22, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-03-19/ukrainians-border-title-42.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

January 6, 2022

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

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

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

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

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP, Office of Field Operations

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

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

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

December, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance recounted the separation of a Haitian family at a port of entry in December 2021.

After being turned back to Mexico by CBP officers on horseback in Del Rio, one Haitian man and his partner attempted to seek asylum at the port of entry at Port Andrade, California in December 2021.[279] His partner was seven months pregnant and experiencing severe health complications. During their processing, the couple asked U.S. officials if they could be kept together. The officials refused and the couple was separated. The man was deeply concerned for his partner’s health and begged the officers for an update on her condition multiple times a day. The officers at the facility repeatedly refused to provide any information. “I felt terrible because after everything we’ve been through together, they refused to give me any information or update on how her health was.”[280]

The couple spent four days in a detention facility in Arizona in separate cells before the pregnant woman was released to their sponsor in New York. U.S. officials told the man that instead of being released alongside his pregnant partner, he would be transferred to a different detention facility. Nine days later, he was transferred from Arizona to Laredo, Texas. On December 12th, he was deported back to Haiti. The separation from his pregnant partner was “emotionally devastating” and they both “cried every single day.” He missed the birth of his child, who has since suffered from health consequences.

Beyond the Bridge: Documented Human Rights Abuses and Civil Rights Violations Against Haitian Migrants in the Del Rio, Texas Encampment (United States: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Haitian Bridge Alliance, March 29, 2022) https://rfkhr.imgix.net/asset/Del-Rio-Report.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[279]: Phone interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual (Mar. 14, 2022).

[280]: Phone interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual (Mar. 14, 2022).

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Pregnancy

September 27, 2021

A Kino Border Initiative release reports:

Karla [not real name], another migrant organizer, described her experience being denied asylum three times. She said, “I went to the Tijuana border looking for help and protection asking immigration for asylum. They rejected me, humiliated me, and denied me asylum. I cried together with my children, pleaded with them and asked for their help to be able to request asylum. When they saw me cry, they told me not to because not even with my tears was I going to convince them and that I better step aside because I was in the way. As I cried for help, they laughed at me and my children. I tried to seek asylum in three different ports of entry along the border and I have always been rejected, humiliated. They threatened to call the Mexican authorities on me who also humiliated us.”

— “CBP closed port of entry after denying access to migrant family seeking asylum, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 27, 2021) https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/press-release-cbp-closed-port-of-entry-after-denying-access-to-migrant-family-seeking-asylum-accompanied-by-tucson-bishop-edward-weisenburger/.

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit

September 27, 2021

CBP officers shut the gates of Nogales, Arizona’s DeConcini port of entry as a family, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger, approached to seek asylum. A Kino Border Initiative release described the scene.

Laura fled southern Mexico with her two kids, her brother and his family- after her husband was shot by the local mafia. Laura and her family, accompanied by the Bishop, went through the turnstile at the DeConcini port of entry only to be turned away in tears.

Chelsea Sachau, attorney with the Florence Project, who accompanied the family recounts the event, “The family reasserted their request to be processed and to seek asylum. They asked to speak to someone else [other than the CBP officials], a supervisor, and then the CBP officers entered the building and locked both doors. They tested to make sure that both doors were locked, and then they slowly started lowering the gate to shut down the entire port of entry because this family, accompanied by faith leaders, and a legal observer, asked him for their right to seek asylum.” Laura and her family were forced to step back as the gate lowered onto where they were standing. Sachau continues, “There was no warning given to anyone, neither ourselves or anyone in line who had papers to enter into the US.” The DeConcini port of entry was shut down for about an hour to anyone trying to cross into the U.S.

— “CBP closed port of entry after denying access to migrant family seeking asylum, accompanied by Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, September 27, 2021) https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/press-release-cbp-closed-port-of-entry-after-denying-access-to-migrant-family-seeking-asylum-accompanied-by-tucson-bishop-edward-weisenburger/.

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Mexico

August 5, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “S.O.D.,” who said she was threatened and invasively strip-searched by CBP Field Operations personnel at El Paso’s Santa Fe (Paso del Norte Bridge) Port of Entry.

Today (8/5/2021), I went to Ciudad Juárez with my 5-month-old son, Nathan, because he had an appointment with the pediatrician at the Family Clinic at 1:30 p.m. for a stomach infection and flu. When I returned to El Paso, I arrived at the Santa Fe bridge around 2:20 p.m. When it was my turn to see the officer, he told me he would take my photo, which I agreed to. He asked for my documents; I gave him my Texas identification. When he asked for my son’s papers, I showed him the papers from our visit to the clinic, which had my full name and my son’s social security number. He told me that I would have to go in for a routine check-up. I told him that was fine; I had no illegal things with me.

They put me in the inspection room with three officers, two females and a male officer sitting on the computer. The male officer stated that my son did not look like me and that my son’s papers were invalid. He asked me, “how do we verify that he is your son? We would have to do a DNA test, and that would take a week.” Therefore, he said they were going to take my son to a detention place. I asked him where they were going to take him. The officer, an older man, mockingly told me that he would put him in a cage. The way he expressed himself was not funny to me at all.

They told me to take my money and all my belongings and put them inside my son’s diaper bag. One of the female officers checked the diaper bag, put it in a blue box, and then took my son. The other female officer inspected me thoroughly. She put me against the wall and told me to lower my pants to my knees. She physically checked my whole body. She put her hands under my bra and touched my parts in front and behind.

The male officer told me that, since I couldn’t prove that he was my son, they would accuse me of child trafficking and arrest me. I told him that I knew a person from CPS who could verify that the child is indeed my son and that he is an American citizen. At that moment, he turned around, looked at me, and repeated, “CPS?”

The officer then gave me back my documents and told me to leave. He said that he did not want to see me crossing the border with my son, that the next time, they would take him away from me. One of the female officers accompanied me to the door to leave. I was detained for approximately 40 minutes.

The truth is that I felt denigrated because of the way they abused my rights and those of my son. I was only taking him to the doctor; I was not doing anything illegal. I showed him the doctor’s prescription, but he did not mind exposing my son to a closed place where there were more people and possible contagious viruses. My son is a baby; he was sick.

The Border Network for Human Rights stated that it shared this and other testimonies in its February 2022 abuse monitoring report “with the agencies involved.”

The State of Human Rights at the U.S. – Mexico Border: Abuse Documentation 2022 Campaign Report (El Paso, Border Network for Human Rights, February 22, 2022) https://bnhr.org/abuse-documentation-2022-campaign-report/.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Disregard of Public Health, Wrongful Strip Search

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Female

Mid-June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported about the separation of a Honduran Garífuna family whose asylum claim had gained an exception to the Title 42 expulsion policy:

Last week, a Honduran father of 5 whose wife is 3 months pregnant was detained by ICE as he and his family were processed through the consortium process at the downtown Nogales port of entry. The father does not have any criminal history in the US, and Spanish is the family’s second language, as they are part of the Garífuna indigenous community in Honduras.

As the mother shared in her testimony at the interfaith #SaveAsylum event this week, when the father was separated from his family, the CBP officer assured his wife that he would only be detained a day or two, but he has now been separated from his family for over a week.

His wife, who is stranded waiting for her husband’s release at a shelter in Tucson with their 5 children, attempted to set an appointment to visit her husband at La Palma, but was unable to do so because the visitation phone system is all in English. She has not received any clarity about when her husband will be released, and a week after his detention had not been able to make any contact since she does not have money to put in his commissary.

— “June 24 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 24, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): ICE, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Honduras, Indigenous

Early June, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) reported:

A woman from Mexico and her four children, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, presented themselves at the port of entry and asked for asylum. The officers present informed them that they had to come to KBI to be granted asylum, when an NGO clearly has no such authority. Unbelievably, this is only one of multiple instances in which US authorities have told asylum seekers to come to KBI for asylum.

— “June 10 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, June 10, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, U.S. Citizen or Resident

November 2, 2020

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed the experience of a Guatemalan woman who crossed the border and was “detained by CBP” with her one-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

At Tucson station, when they were being transferred, the Guatemalan woman asked where she was being taken; the CBP agent replied she did not know, but that they might take the woman’s fear declaration at the next station. The woman was taken to Nogales. The woman asked an agent to take her fear declaration, but the agent said CBP doesn’t do that in Nogales. Then the woman asked another agent who gave her food to take her fear declaration. That CBP agent didn’t speak Spanish and asked another agent to come over to interpret. She told them that a family member had been killed in Guatemala and that she also feared returning to Mexico as she had been robbed there. The agents told her that her case doesn’t matter since there are gangs in the U.S. too. The woman and her children were expelled to Mexico soon after.

KBI filed a November 6, 2020 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On January 4, 2021, CRCL emailed “that they received the complaint, recorded it in their database, and no further actions would be taken. 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): Tucson, Tucson Field Office

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

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

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala

Late September, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Earlier this week, a young couple with their baby who fled threats from organized crime in Honduras attempted to cross through the desert in Arizona to request asylum. They turned themselves in to Border Patrol near Tucson, and expressed their fear of returning to Honduras as well as the discrimination they have encountered in Mexico after being detained multiple times, denied health care amidst a serious illness in detention, and having wages stolen by an employer. The BP agents claimed they did not speak Spanish, and told them they could only request asylum at a port of entry with a CBP officer. When the family was returned to Mexico, they approached the downtown Nogales port of entry, only to be rejected. The CBP agent they spoke with refused to take any steps to assess their fear claims and turned them away.

— “October 1 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 1, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson, Tucson Field Office

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

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

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

April 15, 2020

A complaint from the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center, based on interviews conducted in San Diego and Tijuana, found “a number of troubling cases in which CBP processing and/or detention led to family separations, including:”

* A woman whose heart condition worsened when, during processing, the Border Patrol separated her and her sister and transferred her sister to a different detention center without any advance notice or opportunity to say goodbye;

* A mother and her two sons (one a minor) apprehended by the Border Patrol and detained in a nearby station; when the mother, who had seriously injured her knee during her journey to the United States, was taken to a hospital for surgery, she was separated from her boys, who were left detained separately at the Border Patrol station. After her return from the hospital, the Border Patrol released the mother and minor son into the United States together, but separated the older son from them and transferred him to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detention; [12]

* A grandmother who Border Patrol agents separated from her nine-year-old grandson after agents told her that his birth certificate was insufficient to establish biological familial ties. The grandmother was left anguished and fearful that her grandson would be given up to a U.S. family for adoption; and

* A family of nine which CBP separated into three different family units—notwithstanding the fact that all nine family members initially entered the United States together—and subjected to the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols.” The entire family was forcibly removed to Mexico, with each of the three “units” then receiving different master calendar hearing dates. This, in turn, resulted in separate nonrefoulement interviews. The stress of this arbitrary and inefficient separation of family members led the mother in the family to experience hyperventilating, vomiting, headache, and chest pain while awaiting her own nonrefoulement interview.

— “Separation of Families via CBP Detention and Processing, and the Agency’s Refusal to Implement a Detainee Locator System” (San Diego and El Paso, ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, April 15, 2020) https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-04-15-dhs-oig-cmplt-3-final.pdf.

Footnote from above:

[12]: This family also included a father and two additional minor children, who had been separated from the mother and sons while crossing into the United States. Although the father saw one of his sons through a glass window while detained at the Border Patrol station and tried to explain to agents that his wife and other children were on site, the Border Patrol made no effort to reunite the family, and did not tell the mother that her partner was detained at the same station.

Sector(s): San Diego

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

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit