8 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the victim classification is “Venezuela”

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

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report recounted the experience of four Nicaraguan and Venezuelan asylum seekers who were laterally flown from McAllen to El Paso, Texas, detained for more than 10 days, then placed into the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program.

The men had crossed the border near the Rio Grande Valley in November 2021, where CBP initially detained them in horrible conditions in hieleras (extremely cold cells), woke them in the middle of the night, shackled them by their hands, feet, and waists, and then flew them to El Paso. There they were held in CBP cells for several more days before being sent to Ciudad Juárez under RMX. CBP falsely told some of the men that they were being transferred for release to family members in the United States.

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, El Paso Field Office, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult, Venezuela

December 2021

December 2021 guidance for implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program specified that individuals should be exempted from the program if they suffer from mental or physical health issues or disabilities; vulnerabilities from advanced age; or risk of harm due to sexual orientation or gender identity (original link). Despite that, a January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of RMX in El Paso, reported several cases of CBP returning vulnerable people to Mexico.

– In December 2021, a gay Venezuelan asylum seeker was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX despite having informed CBP officers of his sexual orientation. While in CBP custody the man endured harassment because of his sexual orientation and asked multiple CBP officers if there were any protections for members of the LGBTQ community but was told “no.” The man reported to Human Rights First that he fears harm in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

– A man with cancer was returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX, even though he and his attorneys had informed DHS of his condition. As of mid-December 2021, the Border Project reported that DHS said that the agency was attempting to locate the man in Mexico.

– A Nicaraguan asylum seeker who suffers from chronic migraines was nevertheless returned to Ciudad Juárez under RMX in December 2021. The man told Human Rights First that CBP officers did not ask him any questions about his medical condition. The man was returned to Mexico without his medication, which CBP officers discarded while he was in custody. He has suffered several migraines while stranded in a shelter in Mexico.

The Border Project also identified dozens of individuals who CBP officers in El Paso failed to properly exclude from RMX in December 2021 based on DHS’s own screening criteria, including a man living with HIV; a man experiencing pain and limited use of his hand because the Mexican cartel that kidnapped him had amputated part of his finger on a video call with the man’s family to extort money from them; and a dozen LGBTQ individuals, one of whom had been raped and threatened with death in Mexico due to his sexual orientation.

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.

— Adolfo Flores, Hamed Aleaziz, “US Border Authorities Have Incorrectly Placed Immigrants With Medical Conditions In The Relaunched ‘Remain In Mexico’ Program, Attorneys Say” (BuzzFeed, December 17, 2021) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/us-border-authorities-wrongly-sought-to-force-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Medical Care, Non-Return of Belongings, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Kidnap Victim, LGBTQ, Medical Condition, Nicaragua, Sexual Abuse Victim, Single Adult, Venezuela

Mid-September, 2021

A March 2022 report from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance recounted several examples of family separations during a mass migration event in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021.

Another Haitian asylum seeker traveled to Del Rio with her husband and their three-year-old son.[213] The woman’s husband had adopted the child and they had been living as a family since his birth. After spending five days in the encampment, the husband was separated from his wife and child and was deported back to Haiti. A significant number of Haitian migrants also reported being separated from their spouses. For example, after spending seven days in the encampment, a Haitian woman reported that she was separated from her husband during CBP processing and was unable to contact him.[214] She suspected that he was deported to Haiti.

In addition to the separation of minor children from parents and legal guardians, Haitian and other migrants from the encampment also reported DHS forcibly separating them from the extended family members they were traveling with, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. For example, one Haitian asylum seeker who had been traveling with her twin sister reported that when they were issued tickets and processed by CBP personnel in the encampment, while she was allowed to enter the United States and was taken to the local respite center, her twin was taken into custody and deported back to Haiti—despite the fact that they had virtually identical asylum claims and circumstances.[215] A Haitian woman who was traveling with her husband, infant child, and sister reported that in the Del Rio encampment, her sister was separated from the couple and deported to Haiti.[216] A Venezuelan woman and her three-year-old child were separated from her elderly mother in the Del Rio encampment.[217] The woman was unable to communicate with her mother and had no knowledge of what happened to her.

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:

[213]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 24, 2021).

[214]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 24, 2021).

[215]: In-person interview by HBA case worker with Haitian individual in Del Rio, Texas (Sept. 21, 2021).

[216]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Haitian individual in Acuña, Mexico (Sept. 24, 2021).

[217]: In-person interview by RFK Human Rights lawyer with Venezuela individual in Del Rio, Texas (Sept. 22, 2021).

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Black, Family Unit, Haiti, Venezuela

June, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of a Venezuelan asylum seeker from his wife in Yuma, Arizona.

In June 2021, DHS separated a Venezuelan asylum seeker from his wife when they entered the United States near Yuma, Arizona to seek protection. ICE detained the man in the Kandiyohi County Jail in Minnesota, where he remained detained as of September 2021 while his wife was living in a community in Utah pursuing her asylum claim, according to The Advocates for Human Rights.

“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): Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Venezuela

May, 2021

A report from Human Rights First discussed the separation of an 19-year-old Venezuelan from the rest of her family at the border.

DHS separated a 19-year-old Venezuelan asylum seeker from her parents and younger brother in May 2021, who were paroled into the United States to apply for asylum. ICE then detained her for nearly two months at the Imperial Regional Detention Facility. The family fled Venezuela after the young woman was kidnapped and beaten by Venezuelan government agents and her brother murdered because of the family’s political opposition work. DHS denied a request for parole filed by her attorney in June 2021, according to Adam Howard, who assisted in representing her.

“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: Family Unit, Venezuela

January 17, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK discussed the experience of a Venezuelan man detained by Border Patrol after entering the United States.

He had narrowly escaped criminals who tried to pull him back to Mexico. They managed to take his backpack, which had his phone and other belongings. It was soon after this that he was detained. He was taken to Ajo Station, where he was forced to sign several documents, most of which were in English, a language he does not speak. He fled Venezuela because of persecution he experienced. When he told the agents he was afraid to return to Venezuela, they asked him which was more dangerous: Mexico or Venezuela. He told them he thought both were dangerous. The following day he was forced to sign papers and said he was being expelled under MPP; he was also told he would be given an opportunity to speak with an immigration official in Tucson the following day. This was a lie; he was never given this opportunity. He was transported to Tucson and expelled to Nogales, Sonora two days later.

KBI filed a January 22, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On January 29, 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

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

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

Victim Classification: Single Adult, Venezuela