19 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the victim classification is “Pregnancy”

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

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report discussed examples of CBP’s implementation of “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) involving separation of family members, non-return of belongings, and dangerous returns.

CBP officers are separating some RMX returnees from family members. The Border Project identified approximately 10 RMX returnees who had been separated from spouses or adult children. One man who was returned to Mexico under RMX told the Border Project that he had been separated from his wife, who is six-months pregnant and suffers from epilepsy and asthma. A Venezuelan asylum seeker told Human Rights First that he had been separated from his adult brother and uncle. In addition, CBP is returning individuals without their belongings and dressed in identical clothing that would make them readily identifiable as migrants. Multiple individuals reported to Human Rights First that CBP officers discarded their personal possessions and that they were returned to Ciudad Juárez in December 2021 under RMX without their clothing, shoes, coats, or medication among other personal items – in violation of CBP’s detention standards (original link). As a result, RMX returnees were forced to wear CBP-issued sweatsuits as they were returned to Ciudad Juárez, and on one occasion, Human Rights First researchers also observed RMX returnees wearing CBP-issued flip flops despite temperatures dipping to 40°F that day.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Family Separation, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Disability, Family Unit, Pregnancy, Venezuela

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

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 using excessive force or physical roughness with children:

  • L.A.C. is a sixteen-year-old child from Honduras who was detained in a hielera[10] and kicked by CBP officers while she slept if she did not get up fast enough.
  • P.A.M. is a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico who was seven-months pregnant while in CBP custody. CBP officers pulled P.A.M.’s hair while conducting a body search and grabbed her ankle without warning, causing her to lose her balance.
  • Upon apprehension, M.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old child from El Salvador] was denied water and witnessed other individuals being physically beaten by immigration officers.

“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.

Footnotes from above:

[10]: Throughout this complaint, the word hielera is used to refer to CBP custody. Hielera, which roughly translates to “ice box,” is the word used by most children to describe CBP custody due to the extremely cold temperatures maintained in those facilities.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

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

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Honduras, Mexico, Pregnancy, 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 using abusive language with children:

  • In the hielera, CBP officers insulted P.A.M. [a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico] and other children, called them animals, and shut doors in their faces.
  • 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.
  • G.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] witnessed CBP officers yell at other kids who did not get up right away at five o’clock in the morning for roll call or who did not immediately obey the commands of CBP officers.
  • CBP officers yelled at E.C.C. [a thirteen-year-old child] in both English and Spanish, including waking him and other children by yelling, “Levantense cabrones.” [26]
  • CBP officers called him [D.C.E., a 16-year-old,] a “gangster,” and threatened his aunt.
  • When M.J.C. [a 14-year-old] was first apprehended by CBP, she was handcuffed for approximately twenty-four hours without any food or water. Alone, exhausted from her journey, and afraid for her life, she was forced to sit on the side of the road as CBP officers yelled at her in English, which she did not understand. M.J.C. was cold and wet when she finally arrived at the hielera, but rather than give her warm clothes, CBP officers berated M.J.C., saying that “she should’ve thought about that before coming to the U.S.”
  • M.G.G. is a seventeen-year-old child who arrived in the United States from El Salvador and experienced egregious abuse at the hands of CBP officers. When M.G.G. was apprehended, she was verbally harassed. She reported hearing CBP officers refer to her and other children and families as “motherfuckers” in English, pendejos, and hijos de puta. [37]
  • When she first arrived at the hielera, she [L.L.C., a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] was yelled at by the guards and given a single mylar blanket. L.L.C. and the other children slept in a shelter with only a roof but no walls. L.L.C. recalls being very cold but afraid to ask for more blankets after seeing other children get yelled at.… L.L.C. also suffered verbal abuse while in CBP custody. She was spoken to in both English and Spanish, and officers would become angry and yell at the children when they did not fall asleep immediately.
  • K.M.A. [a 17-year-old] arrived in the United States with a minor friend and witnessed CBP officers take him into a small room and yell at him. Other CBP officers berated K.M.A. because she was pregnant and accused her of providing a false birth certificate. The CBP officers yelled at K.M.A. so much that she cried, and when she asked to call her mother, they refused to allow her to use the phone. K.M.A. was examined by a nurse while detained in CBP custody, and K.M.A. asked the nurse if it was common for the CBP officers to yell at children in the way she had experienced. The nurse responded that she could not answer the question and instead told CBP officers what K.M.A. had asked her. K.M.A. was then yelled at by two CBP officers, who told her that child immigrants should not come to the United States because it was a waste of taxes. The CBP officers accused K.M.A. of only coming to the United States so her baby could be a U.S. citizen and so that she could receive welfare. The officers expressed to her that it was not fair that the U.S. government would pay to support her baby. K.M.A. was also threatened by CBP officers. She was told that she would be put in jail because she was pregnant and because she had brought a fake birth certificate, even though K.M.A. repeatedly assured the officers that it was not fake.

“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.

Footnotes from above:

[26]: This phrase translates to “Get up a–holes”

[37]: These phrases translate to “a–holes” and “sons of bitches.”

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language

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

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

December 2021

A January 2022 Human Rights First report recounted the consequences of CBP officers’ repeated refusal to grant humanitarian parole to a 19-year-old Honduran woman with a high-risk pregnancy.

The woman who was eight-months pregnant and experiencing severe bleeding, had been denied medical treatment in Ciudad Acuña and attempted three times to enter the United States to seek protection. Each time she was expelled by DHS to Ciudad Acuña under Title 42. By the time CBP reversed its initial parole denial following advocacy by Charlene D’Cruz, an attorney with Lawyers for Good Government, the woman had disappeared and remains missing as of January 2022.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): Del Rio, Laredo Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Honduras, Medical Condition, Pregnancy, Single Adult

Mid-September, 2021

In a March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), narrating the September 2021 mass migration event in Del Rio, Texas, migrants’ testimonies offered several examples of CBP personnel denying medical care.

Many individuals reported that CBP personnel outright denied their requests for medical care, telling them to “go back to Mexico.” Multiple individuals reported that when they requested medical assistance from personnel, instead of medication or medical assistance, they were given a single piece of bread and a hot water bottle. For example, a Haitian man traveling with his wife and two-year-old daughter described how his daughter became very sick with gastrointestinal issues and respiratory issues from the dust.[166] She was vomiting frequently, had a high fever, and visible difficulty breathing. Despite the man’s pleading and repeated requests for help, CBP personnel denied this man’s child medical treatment on September 18th.

A Haitian woman’s son had constant diarrhea and developed a high fever. Eventually her son was so ill that she twice sought help at a medical tent where there were personnel who appeared to be doctors.[167] The woman recalled that the medical personnel treated her baby “like he was nothing.” Instead of paying attention to and treating her son, they kept taunting her by asking her “when her number would be called so that she would be put in jail and then deported.” Eventually they gave her some liquid drops and some ice gel packs for his fever, but those treatments did not appear to help her son’s condition. One couple described that when their nine-month-old child developed a severe rash from the dust, they went to the medic tent on September 21st to request medical assistance. [168] The personnel at the medic tent gave the couple a hot bottle of water and refused to provide the infant with further medication or medical care.

…One newborn infant almost died after being held in the encampment for several days. He survived only after HBA intervened and advocated for his admission to a hospital in Del Rio. The newborn’s condition had grown so precarious that, after he was finally removed from the Del Rio encampment, he had to be airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio, Texas where specialists were able to intervene and provide life-saving medical treatment.[171] One Haitian woman described, “I witnessed pregnant women going into labor taken in to give birth and then sent back under the bridge without further access to healthcare. And that was really heartbreaking for me. I’ll never forget that.”[172] An individual reported that after a pregnant Haitian asylum seeker went into labor, U.S. officials eventually took the woman out of the encampment, but then returned her and her newborn to the encampment mere hours after delivery.[173]

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:

[166]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 25, 2021).

[167]: Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, No. 1:21-CV-03317 (D.D.C.) (filed Dec. 20, 2021), https://i com/data/documenttools/hba-v-biden/a8106eacd7c45afe/full.pdf.

[168]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 25, 2021).

[171]: In-person interview and observation by HBA caseworker with Haitian individual in Del Rio, Texas (Sept. 19-25, 2021).

[172]: In-person interview by HBA case worker with Haitian individual in Del Rio, Texas (Sept. 23, 2021).

[173]: Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Biden, No. 1:21-CV-03317 (D.D.C.) (filed Dec. 20, 2021), https://i com/data/documenttools/hba-v-biden/a8106eacd7c45afe/full.pdf.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Medical Condition, Pregnancy, Single Adult

August 2021

“In August 2021,” a Human Rights First report documented, “DHS expelled Cynthia, a 21-year-old pregnant Honduran woman to Mexico, without providing her water or medical attention after she had begged for something to drink and to see a doctor for stomach pain.” The case is mentioned briefly in the Texas Observer, which identified Border Patrol as the expelling agency. At a Catholic migrant shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, “doctors administered antibiotics for Cynthia’s infection.”

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks.

— Arianna Flores, “Border Patrol Ignored Migrants’ Pleas for Medical Help” (Texas: Public Health Watch, The Texas Observer, October 14, 2021) https://www.texasobserver.org/migrants-say-border-patrol-agents-ignored-pleas-for-medical-help/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Female, Honduras, Medical Condition, Pregnancy, Single Adult

Mid-July, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Recently, one of our legal service partners spoke with Maily Martinez, who attempted to cross the border with her husband and son near the Yuma port of entry in early July. Maily was eight months pregnant with twins at the time. When BP agents encountered the family, the woman expressed that she urgently needed medical attention, but the agents ignored her and expelled her back to Mexico. She realized shortly after that the twins had died, likely right around the time that Border Patrol denied her medical aid.

A Noticias Telemundo story about the Honduran woman’s case, citing the hospital in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, noted that the fetuses perished from “interruption of feto-placental circulation.” The news outlet asked Border Patrol about the case; the agency responded, “We do not comment on individual cases due to privacy issues.”

— “July 22 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, July 22, 2021).

— “Madre inmigrante pierde bebés tras ser deportada de EE.UU.” (United States: Noticias Telemundo, July 8, 2021) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXZ9e1jQTew.

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras, Medical Condition, Pregnancy

Summer, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a Cameroonian asylum-seeking man and pregnant wife.

Around summer 2021, DHS separated a Cameroonian man from his pregnant wife when they sought protection at the border. ICE detained the husband at the Aurora Detention Facility in Colorado while detaining the pregnant woman in multiple ICE facilities in Louisiana and Georgia. He was released in July after he established a credible fear of persecution, according to a legal services organization.

“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: Black, Cameroon, Family Unit, Pregnancy

February 27, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Last weekend the Florence Project was alerted to a pregnant woman at a local hospital who was in Border Patrol custody. Fearing she would be removed without due process and concerned about the vulnerability of pregnant women at the border, the Florence Project requested she be released to the community rather than sent to Mexico. Border Patrol never responded. Two days later the woman reached out from Nogales, Sonora seeking aid.

— “March 4 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 4, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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: Female, Pregnancy, Single Adult

February 3, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK described Border Patrol agents’ rough treatment of an asylum-seeking family at a Nogales, Arizona port of entry.

A Salvadoran woman, her husband and two children traveled from El Salvador to Mexico initially to escape threats at home. Soon after, they also received threats in Mexico and decided to flee to the US. They approached the DeConcini port of entry in Nogales.

There, an agent shoved the woman who was eight months pregnant in the chest. The woman pleaded with the agent to not turn them back as they were fleeing danger in Mexico. The agents, both male and female, simply laughed at them when they explained the danger and said the family must go back. When the family said they had nowhere to go, the agents said that was not the agents’ problem. They forcibly removed them and took them to the Mexican immigration office at around 10:30 PM. The family slept by the line of cars entering the United States out of fear of navigating Nogales at night.

On the same day KBI filed the complaint [February 9, 2021], CBP OPR responded with the case number for the Joint Intake Center. Two weeks later, on 2/25/2021, KBI received an email from CRCL stating that they received the complaint, recorded it in their database, and will take no further action. Four months after the complaint was filed, on 6/2/2021, KBI received an email from CRCL saying 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): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit, Pregnancy

Late January, 2021

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

Last week a 23-year-old Salvadoran woman who was 36 weeks pregnant arrived at our migrant aid center after BP agents expelled her under Title 42. When she was detained, she began to have strong headaches and was concerned that the stress was causing her to go into premature labor, something that had happened to her in a previous pregnancy. Border Patrol agents denied her medical attention three times, but she felt very ill and insisted on seeing a doctor. A Border Patrol agent responded by accusing her of lying, and threatened that she would face federal criminal charges if she kept causing problems. She continued insisting, and was finally taken to the hospital, where they discovered she was 2 cm dilated. After her headaches ceased, they expelled her to Nogales, Sonora, MX.

— “February 4 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, February 4, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Pregnancy

Mid-December, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

A pregnant Guatemalan woman arrived at KBI last week after being expelled under Title 42. She traveled north through Mexico alone, and crossed with a guide into the Arizona desert where she turned herself in to Border Patrol. Once detained, she requested the Border Patrol agents hear her fear claim to process her for asylum. They assured her they would do so. She overheard the agents saying they were sending her back to Mexico, and asked why, when they had assured her they would hear her fear declaration. She pleaded with them not to expel her to Mexico. Although they knew she was 5 months pregnant, they pulled her, forcibly put her into the Border Patrol vehicle and threatened to handcuff her if she resisted. Border Patrol agents then expelled her to Nogales, Sonora.

— “December 17 Update From KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, December 17, 2021).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Female, Guatemala, Pregnancy, Single Adult

Early October, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

At the beginning of October, a pregnant woman migrating with her husband in the Sonoran desert was experiencing pre-term contractions when CBP officials encountered her. CBP transported the mother to Tucson Medical Center to undergo an emergency cesarean section, and detained the father, separating him from the rest of the family. CBP removed him to Mexico within a few days. The Florence Project feared that the mother, upon discharge from the hospital, would be returned to Mexico pursuant to Title 42 while her newborn, nursing son remained in the neonatal intensive care unit. Thankfully, through Florence Project representation and congressional advocacy, CBP granted the mother parole. The father remains separated from his family, and it is unclear whether the mother would have remained with her newborn without significant intervention from a third party.

— “October 15 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, October 15, 2020.)

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Pregnancy

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

July 7, 2020

A complaint to the DHS Inspector-General, submitted by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center, denounced “CBP officials’ egregious verbal abuse of detained individuals,” including “many instances in which Border Patrol agents verbally abused individuals, including children, in their custody,” including asylum seekers.

Agents berated migrants for traveling to the United States and attempting to exercise their legal right to seek asylum.[16] “Xenophobic nationalism is widespread,” and derogatory comments are often accompanied by threatened or actual physical violence.[17] Agents bully LGBTQ people, equate migrants to animals, and ridicule and humiliate parents trying to protect their children.[18]

The complaint cited numerous explicit examples, some of them reproduced below. All are from interviews with migrants completed between March and July of 2019 with people recently released from Border Patrol custody in San Diego and Tijuana.

This abuse may involve bullying, harassment, threats of violence or other harm, denigration, ridicule, racism, and misstatements about U.S. immigration law, including an individual’s right to seek asylum. Recently detained individuals related the following statements to our investigator: [28]

– “Olvídate del asilo, a la mejor te quitamos a tu hija.”
“Forget about asylum, we might just take away your daughter.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman while interrogating her about why she came to the United States.

– “No mantenemos hijos de nadie.”
“We don’t take care of anyone’s children.”
—Border Patrol agent to a mother when she asked for food for her 1-year old child who had not had any food to eat for an entire day.

– “Cabrona, échate para atrás.”
“You bastard, get back over there.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman as she was entering the country and injured from crossing the border wall.

– “¿Desgraciada, ¿porque tienes tantos niños si no los puedes cuidar? Puta, prostituta.”
“Disgraced woman, why do you have so many kids if you can’t take care of them? Slut, prostitute.”
—Border Patrol agent to a detained mother.

– “¿Cuáles de ustedes maricas sufren de asma?”
“Which of you faggots suffer from asthma?”
—Border Patrol agent to a holding cell of young boys aged 13 to 17.

– “If you keep complaining I will put you with the dogs.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman when she refused to undress for a search during apprehension.

– “Son indios de pata rajada, solo usan sus hijos para entrar.”
“You are all [derogatory expression referring to indigenous peoples], you only use your children to enter [the United States].”
—Border Patrol agent to detained father.

– “¡Aquí no se hace lo que voz dice, se hace lo que yo digo!”
“Here we don’t do what you say, you do what I say!
—Border Patrol agent to pregnant woman asking for water.

– “Are you f***ing retarded? Stop playing with that s***.”
—Border Patrol agent to children playing in holding cell.

– “Váyanse de aquí, ¿qué hacen aquí sí ni hablan inglés?, no valen nada.”
“Get out of here, what are you doing here if you don’t even speak English, you are worthless.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman and her family upon apprehension.

– “No estás en tu casa, ¿tienes mierda en la cabeza?”
“You’re not at home, do you have s*** for brains?”
—Border Patrol agent to woman who asked for a plastic cup to drink water.

– “Joder con ustedes, por eso no mejoran en su país.”
“I’ve f***ing had it with you, this is why you guys don’t advance in your country.”
—Border Patrol agent to detained woman who did not understand his Spanish.

– “I don’t have to tell you, you broke the law, you have no rights.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman when she asked what was on the form she was being instructed to sign.

– “¡Levántense, puercas!”
“Get up, pigs!”
—Border Patrol agent to a cell of detained women.

– “You are an idiot but you sure are good at popping out kids.”
—Border Patrol agent to detained mother.

— “Re: U.S. Border Patrol’s Verbal Abuse of Detained Individuals” (San Diego and El Paso: ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, July 7, 2020) https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-07-07-dhs-oig-cmplt-4-final.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[16]: Josiah Heyman, Jeremy Slack & Daniel E. Martínez, Why Border Patrol Agents and Cbp Officers Should Not Serve as Asylum Officers, Ctr. For Migration Studies (June 21, 2019), https://cmsny.org/publications/heyman-slack-martinez-062119/.

[17]: Id.

[18]: See, e.g., id.; Grace Panetta, Border Patrol officials reportedly forced a Honduran migrant to walk around a detention center holding a sign reading ‘I like men’ in Spanish, BUS. INSIDER, July 5, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/detained-migrant-forced-hold-sign-reading-i-like-men-report-2019-7?op=1; Nick Valencia, et al., Border Patrol agents allegedly tried to shame a migrant by making him hold a sign reading ‘I like men,’ emails show, CNN, July 4, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/04/us/honduran-migrant-shamed-border-patrol/index.html; Andrew Gumbel, ‘They Were Laughing at Us’: Immigrants Tell of Cruelty, Illness and Filth in US Detention, GUARDIAN, Sept. 12, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/12/us-immigration-detention-facilities; Cristina Novoa, 5 Revelations From Children in Border Patrol Facilities, CENTER AM. PROGRESS, July 3, 2019, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/news/2019/07/03/471808/5-revelations-children-border-patrol-facilities/ (“Beyond demonstrating a shocking lack of compassion toward frightened children, testimonies also show that some guards appear to deliberately scare children in their custody”).

[28]: Most of ACLU’s interviews were conducted in Spanish, with contemporaneous notes taken in Spanish by our investigator. Where our notes contain the original Spanish quotes, we have provided that original (as relayed by the interviewee to our investigator) as well as our English translation. At times, our investigator memorialized a statement in English only during her interview (via simultaneous translation). In such cases, we have reproduced her English translation here.
Many of these quotes use degrading and offensive language that we hesitated to reprint. In the end, we decided to reproduce the language reported to remain as faithful as possible to the accounts of those we interviewed.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Pregnancy, Single Adult

February 16, 2020

A Guatemalan woman and her family said that, while being processed in the Chula Vista Border Patrol station near San Diego, she was left to give birth “while standing up, holding on to the side of a trash can,” BuzzFeed reported. The woman, pregnant and experiencing contractions, had repeatedly asked the agents for help. “She was repeatedly told to sit down and wait to be processed, she said. …After about 30 minutes, her husband could hear the baby crying through the fabric of her pants.”

The family—father, mother, and two small children—had been sent to Tijuana in May 2019 under the Remain in Mexico program, where they had “spent nine months in a camp” and reported to the port of entry to attend three separate immigration hearings. Their next hearing was scheduled for May 2020; in February the family reported that their Guatemalan persecutors had found them in Tijuana and were threatening them, leading them to cross the border outside the port of entry.

While crossing the desert, the woman went into contractions. “They were soon apprehended by a Border Patrol agent,” BuzzFeed reports.

The woman was in clear distress, and her husband begged the agent for medical attention, the complaint says, but instead the agent loaded the family into his car and giving them a “rough ride” (an abusive practice in which some border agents reportedly purposefully drive badly so as to fling detainees around the car), the complaint says, and brought them to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station for processing.

“The apprehending agent could visibly see that the woman was pregnant; however, the mother did not appear to be in distress and did not request any medical attention,” read a release from CBP (original link). In April 2020, the ACLU and Jewish Family Service submitted a complaint to the DHS Inspector-General (original link). Thirteen Democratic senators signed a letter to the Inspector-General calling for investigations of this and other recent allegations of mistreatment in custody (original link).

Border Patrol San Diego Sector Chief Aaron Heitke tweeted, “CBP strongly disagrees with the unsubstantiated allegations against our agents & supports what appear to be nothing short of heroic actions by those on scene” (original link).

A July 2021 DHS Inspector General report found that the woman gave birth 17 minutes after arriving at the Border Patrol Station, concluding, “we found Border Patrol provided adequate medical assistance to the mother and her newborn and complied with applicable policies” (original link). The report did find that, after the woman’s release from the hospital, video footage showed her left to sleep overnight with her newborn on a bench in a holding cell at the Chula Vista station.

— Ema O’Connor, “A Woman Gave Birth In A Border Patrol Station Still Wearing Her Pants. Now The Agents Involved Are Being Accused Of Abuse.” (United States: BuzzFeed, April 8, 2020) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/pregnant-woman-birth-border-patrol-aclu-complaint.

—” Migrant Mother Gives Birth at Border Patrol Station” (Chula Vista, California: Customs and Border Protection, February 19, 2020) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/migrant-mother-gives-birth-border-patrol-station.

— Monica Y. Langarica, Kate Clark, Dr. Kay Daniels, “U.S. Border Patrol’s Abuse and Mistreatment of [Redacted]” (San Diego: ACLU San Diego and Imperial Counties and Jewish Family Service, April 8, 2020) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6827805-2020-04-07-OIG-Cmplt-Final-Redacted.html.

Letter from 13 Democratic Senators to DHS Inspector-General (Washington: U.S. Senate, April 8, 2020) https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2020.04.08%20DHS%20OIG%20Letter%20re%20CBP%20Mistreating%20Pregnant%20Detainees.pdf.

— “Review of the February 16, 2020 Childbirth at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station” (Washington: DHS Office of the Inspector-General, July 20, 2021) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2021-07/OIG-21-49-Jul21.pdf.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Rough Rides

Last Known Accountability Status: Cleared by DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, Pregnancy

Early January 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reported:

In the last week, at least two families were separated as a result of MPP, including a man who was returned while his pregnant wife was released in the US, and a woman with children returned whose husband remains detained.

— “January 9 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, January 9, 2020).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

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

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Pregnancy