4 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Abuse of Minor” where the victim classification is “Family Unit”

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

September 25, 2021

A report from the Border Network for Human Rights included the testimony of “J.N.L.,” a Mexican migrant who claimed that he and his minor son suffered physical abuse and abusive language while attempting to turn themselves in to a Border Patrol agent in El Paso.

On Sept. 25, at around 6:30 p.m., my son and I crossed the Rio Grande River to the United States at the height of Oro Street, where the train ended. When we crossed there, we stayed because we saw that the border patrol truck was coming. When it arrived, an officer got out quickly and screamed at us. It seemed like he was under the influence of some drug because out of nowhere, he grabbed my son by his shirt and pressed him down against the gravel. I told him, “buddy, you cannot treat my son like that; he is a minor. He is only 13 years old, and I will report it.”

He threw me face first and then grabbed me by my neck. I felt he was suffocating me. He yelled at me and told me to go ahead and report him and called me “trash.” He said, “I am not your buddy; I am an immigration officer.”

We never tried to run. He seemed to have a Dominican accent. He called on the radio for backup, and soon other officers arrived in a gray-colored uniform. I realized they were sheriff officers.

I told the sheriff officers about the mistreatment my son received from the Border Patrol officer. I asked them if I could report it. They responded that they were county officials and they were there to transfer us to get fingerprinted. I was nervous and scared and did not notice the patrol number or names. They took our fingerprints and then took us over the bridge to Juárez.

My right arm hurts, and my neck hurts even from drinking water. My son is also sore and in pain. This was not fair treatment.

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

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Mexico

Mid-September, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a 16-year-old Nicaraguan child from his parents near Eagle Pass, Texas.

In September 2021, DHS separated a 16-year-old Nicaraguan child from his parents when the family sought asylum at the border near Eagle Pass, Texas, and jailed him alone in adult ICE detention facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana for one-and-a-half months. CBP officers ripped up the boy’s birth certificate, interrogated him about his age, threatened to imprison him for 10 years, and forced him to sign a document stating that he was 18. At the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center, ICE held the boy in an isolation cell for 18 days. He told Telemundo News: “To spend 24 hours in there, locked up, with the doors locked, without going out. It was terrible. There was no hope of leaving that place.”

Noticias Telemundo described the 16-year-old’s treatment at the hands of the Border Patrol agents who apprehended him.

They doubted that they were a family. The son burst into tears, as he recounts. “They started telling me ‘tell us your real age.’ And for about twenty times I repeated the same thing: 16 years old, 16 years old. They got mad at me and told me that they were going to hold me and my family in prison for ten years, and that they were going to deport me.”

“Angel” says he signed a rudimentary, makeshift piece of paper the agents handed him, on which they only wrote his name and that he was 18 years old. He says he felt intimidated and forced to sign by the two agents’ shouting and threats.

…The mother, Luz Zelaya, says that she, meanwhile, had her son’s birth certificate torn up. It is a printed document stating that the minor was born in a municipality in northern Nicaragua in 2005, issued by local authorities days before his departure at the end of August 2021.

“This is no good’. And ra, ra, he tore it to pieces and put it in the trash. ‘You’re lying to me. I’m not dumb,’ he tells me,” recalls Zelaya, a 29-year-old mother who had her son almost as a child and has been with her current husband, who is not Angel’s biological father, for more than a decade. “We never saw him again.”

The minor was detained for a few days in Border Patrol custody in Texas, along with some 80 adult men, in a room where “you had to stand up, you couldn’t even sleep on your stomach,” as he describes it. From there, he was shackled by his hands, feet and waist to be put on a plane bound for an ICE detention center for single adults, Adams County Detention Center, in Mississippi.

“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.

— Damià Bonmatí, Belisa Morillo, “Aislado en una prisión con solo 16 años: la odisea de un menor que fue separado de sus papás en la frontera” (United States: Noticias Telemundo, December 15, 2021) https://www.telemundo.com/noticias/noticias-telemundo/inmigracion/separacion-bajo-el-gobierno-biden-asi-fue-la-odisea-de-un-menor-de-16-rcna8638.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Confiscation of Documents, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit, Nicaragua

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