WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Photo: CBP; Illustration: Sergio Ortiz Borbolla

2 Aug 2023 |

Section III – Failure Points – Abuses at the U.S.- Mexico Border: How To Address Failures and Protect Rights


WOLA and the Kino Border Initiative have documented many examples of abusive or improper conduct committed by U.S. border authorities. We have also identified glaring flaws in the accountability process at the Department of Homeland Security.

We present this extensive report in several sections. Section I covered the scope of the abuse problem and the need for accountability. Section II explained how the accountability system is meant to work. Here in Section III, we look at why the system so often fails to achieve accountability. We illustrate key “failure points” along the way, drawing heavily from the Kino Border Initiative’s repeated attempts to achieve some redress for migrants who reported suffering abuse.

The section following this one (IV) will issue recommendations for complaints, investigations, discipline, oversight, and organizational culture.


III. Failure points

KBI has helped migrants to use DHS complaint processes since 2015, and has experienced firsthand many of these systems’ shortcomings.

    • In 2017, KBI’s report “ Intake without Oversight” documented 49 complaints, covering a variety of abuses from excessive use of force to medical neglect, filed between October 2015 and March 2017. Of those, KBI only received notifications regarding complaint investigations in 13 cases. For the remaining 36 cases, KBI only received communication to confirm receipt of the complaint, to confirm the complaint would be recorded in the “information layer,” or to state that CRCL either planned to or had already investigated the complaint, with no further details. [15]
    • In 2021, KBI wrote to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, highlighting DHS accountability offices’ ongoing issues of non-response. The letter reported that KBI had filed 73 complaints between 2017 and 2021, and of the 63 complaints for which DHS acknowledged receipt, it only provided definitive results in 14 cases, 12 of which were dismissed. [16]
    • Also in 2021, KBI and NETWORK compiled a report summarizing 35 complaints that KBI filed between October 2020 and July 2021. The report highlights that of these 35 complaints, not one resulted in a response to KBI or the complainant about any disciplinary action taken against the CBP agents who perpetrated the abuses. [17]

Unfortunately, these patterns remain in place today. Between 2020 and 2022, KBI filed 78 complaints with CRCL and/or OPR. KBI often jointly submits complaints to multiple oversight agencies, by “CC”-ing the appropriate agencies on one email submitting the complaint. For instance, in cases of egregious and/or physical abuse by BP agents, KBI forwards complaints to both CRCL and CBP OPR. In cases regarding detention conditions, KBI forwards complaints to CRCL and OIDO.

Despite this practice, the response to the majority of these cases was either that CRCL recorded the allegation in its “information layer” and closed the case, that CRCL closed the case due to ongoing litigation or previous recommendations, or that CRCL forwarded the complaint to OIG and KBI never heard anything more.

In some cases, KBI has experienced wait times of up to 2 years to receive any response from CRCL, even an acknowledgement of receipt. In 2020, KBI filed 17 complaints, 7 of which took between 1-2 years to receive any communication or response. In 2021, KBI filed 44 complaints, 9 of which took between 1-2 years to receive any response. In 2022, KBI filed 17 complaints, 5 of which still have not received any response.

This wait time seriously hinders effective investigations, as access to evidence and contact with witnesses and victims deteriorate over time. In the case of “Carlos” (case outlined below), Border Patrol perpetrated the abuse at the DeConcini Port of Entry, where there are cameras and likely other witnesses. But KBI received its first communication about the complaint nearly 2 years after filing it. In that response, CRCL requested KBI’s help locating and speaking with “Carlos,” but KBI was no longer in contact with him after 2 years.

The rest of this section provides illustrative examples of these “failure points” in the accountability process. These come mainly from KBI’s direct experience with the 78 complaints filed between 2020 and 2022. All names are changed to protect victims’ privacy.

III.A. CRCL recorded allegation in “information layer,” and closed case: 28/78


“Cristian” was apprehended in the desert. While he was walking, a helicopter appeared above him, and he sat down on the ground, then laid down. As he laid down, he felt a scorpion sting him on his hip. Soon, Border Patrol trucks approached from all sides and an agent came out. Cristian told him he had been stung and needed medical attention, but the agent told him to wait until the arrival of other migrants whom the helicopter was pushing back. He tried to drink water, but it was getting harder to breathe and his throat felt tingly. He asked for medical attention again, but the agent told him to be quiet. He waited in the heat for an hour and a half until BP took them to Yuma in the early afternoon. Upon arrival, the migrants were inspected and Christian had to lift up his shirt. He did so and showed the agent the big swollen bump on his hip, asking for medical attention, but she said to wait. Agents put him in a holding cell. He couldn’t eat because his throat felt like it was closing up. He fell asleep, thinking he might die. At around 3 am, he woke up after the agents had a shift change. An agent approached and Cristian showed him the sting. The agent seemed scared and surprised and took him to the hospital, after he had been asking for medical attention for over 12 hours. The doctors took him to the ER and gave him an anti-venom shot and antibiotics. Upon release, the agents took the medical paperwork, and he was only given antibiotics sporadically in custody.


KBI filed a complaint on October 20, 2022, and CRCL responded over 3 months later: “After carefully reviewing the information you provided, CRCL has recorded it in our database. This will allow us to track the issues you raised in order to identify potential patterns of civil rights or civil liberties allegations within our jurisdiction. Accordingly, CRCL will take no further action on the information you provided at this time.”

III.B. CRCL closed case due to ongoing litigation or previous recommendations: 11


“Damien” fled Jamaica to seek asylum in the United States. His friends in Jamaica had told him that you can seek asylum once you’re inside the United States, so he decided to run toward the port of entry and cross the international boundary while shouting that he was there to seek asylum in order to access a credible fear interview. As he crossed, two CBP officers grabbed a plastic barrier and threw it at him. He fell to the ground and two officers began beating him with their fists as he lay on the ground. One put his foot on his neck and yelled, “Don’t move.” They dragged him by his clothes along the concrete into a room that was under a roof of the checkpoint. His legs and arms were completely scraped. A woman officer saw the 2 agents dragging him and said that it was wrong, but they told her to get out of there. The agents took him inside a room and pushed him against the wall, telling him not to look at anything and to keep facing the wall. The agents asked Damien why he had come and he said to seek asylum. They asked where he was from and when he said Jamaica, they responded, “That’s what a bunch of you have been doing. You’re getting out of here,” and they expelled him to Nogales, Sonora.


KBI filed the complaint on June 26, 2021. Two months later, CRCL responded, confirming receipt of the complaint. Nine months after receiving the complaint, CRCL responded: “DHS placed this complaint on hold due to pending class action lawsuits relating to the issues you have raised in your complaint, including: Huisha-Huisha et al. v. Gaynor et al., (1:21-cv-00100 (D.D.C. January 12, 2021) and P.J.E.S. v. Wolf et al., (1:20-cv-02245 (D.D.C. August 14, 2020). Because that litigation remains ongoing, CRCL has decided to close this complaint. If, following the conclusion of the litigation, you believe that any civil rights or civil liberties issues have not been adequately addressed, please feel free to file a new complaint with CRCL.” The response added, “Following investigations of other complaints relating to CBP’s enforcement of Title 42, CRCL also made recommendations in 2021 to CBP regarding medical treatment and humanitarian protections for persons subjected to expulsion under Title 42.”

III.C. CRCL couldn’t substantiate allegations or found that there was no violation of policy/procedure, and closed case: 8


“Mauricio” presented himself at Nogales’s DeConcini Port of Entry multiple times in May 2021 to seek asylum after he had received death threats and survived attempted kidnapping in Nogales. One night, he fled toward the border because he feared for his life. As he entered the area where cars lined up towards the United States, 12 CBP officers beat him with their fists and feet, kicking him all over his body. They expelled him instantly, even though he told them people wanted to kill him in Mexico. Upon his expulsion, the Mexican Red Cross took him to the hospital.


KBI filed a complaint on May 25, 2021. On June 2, 2021, CRCL told KBI they sent the complaint to OIG. On September 14, 2022, 15 months after receiving the complaint, CRCL sent KBI a closure letter, stating they had received a copy of OIG’s investigation and based on its review of that report, CRCL stated that it was unable to substantiate the allegations. The investigation had taken over a year to perform, and the victim was not interviewed.


“Eliezer” was apprehended by Border Patrol in the desert. An agent forcefully pulled him off the ground by the back of his neck and yelled at him in English, which he didn’t understand. The agent handcuffed Eliezer and connected him to 2 other people in handcuffs. A Border Patrol dog weaved in between their legs and one man handcuffed to them fell, pulling down the others. Eliezer fell to his knees and the handcuffs tightened even more. He told the agents the cuffs were too tight and asked if he could please loosen them a little. The agent didn’t respond and only looked at him. When they finally took the cuffs off later, his wrists were bruised.


KBI filed the complaint on April 7, 2021. Four months later, CRCL said they sent the complaint to OIG. Six months after sending the complaint, KBI received a closure letter stating: “CRCL conducted an investigation into your complaint. We requested and reviewed additional information from CBP, which provided records, signed statements from the apprehending USBP agents, policy guidance, training materials, and other information related to your allegations. Based upon our careful review of that information, CRCL is unable to substantiate your allegations. We are closing this complaint as of the date of this letter.” CRCL had only reviewed information from CBP and heard nothing from the victim.


“Brenda” was apprehended by Border Patrol in the desert. Agents ran towards her, which frightened her, so she ran. She fell over a huge rock that she hadn’t seen, and lay on the ground in pain for 40 minutes while agents found the other people in her group. She yelled for help, thinking they had left her behind, until finally an agent returned. He put her on a stretcher, gave her IV fluids, and ripped open her clothes to look for other injuries. They put her in an open trailer to transport her, where she was under the August sun with her clothes ripped open and exposing her skin. They took her to a hospital in Tucson, where doctors said she had a broken tibia. They gave her a leg brace and prescribed her medicine, but she never got the medicine. A Border Patrol agent had her leave the hospital only in a paper hospital gown with no underwear underneath. The agent took her medical paperwork away. They brought her to a cold room in Border Patrol custody. She could not walk on her own because of the pain she was in and was forced to soil herself in the hospital gown she was wearing because she could not walk to the bathroom.

Later, they brought in a wheelchair and said she was going to Mexico. She asked them not to send her in this condition, and to at least give her the medical paperwork so she knew what medication she needed. They gave the paperwork back with many pages ripped off the front. They wheeled her out, still only wearing the soiled paper gown, and put her in a vehicle. While they drove, she said she had to use the bathroom but the agent wouldn’t stop for a bathroom even though they made stops to pick up other people on the way. She had to use the plastic bag they gave her for her belongings and open it up to urinate in the bag. When she arrived in Nogales, Sonora, the Mexican Red Cross saw her condition and called an ambulance to bring her to the hospital in Nogales.


KBI sent the complaint to CRCL on August 30, 2021. On October 21, 2021, CRCL stated that it had forwarded the complaint to OIG. On April 27, 2022 (7 months after receiving the complaint), CRCL communicated: “Based on the review of information we received, it appears that the medical care provided to Ms. [redacted] complied with the policies and procedures that existed at that time. Regarding Ms. [redacted]’s access to a restroom while being transported, we asked CBP to take measures to ensure that this situation does not recur.”

III.D. No response at all: 8


“Adriana” was apprehended by Border Patrol. They took all her belongings away, saying they would be sent with her to the next location. Among the items taken were her diabetes medication, despite her protests that she needed it; her cell phone; and 5,020 pesos ($264 USD). They sent her to the Central Arizona Complex in Florence. The next day, she asked about her medicine, but the agents said there was no medicine among her belongings. She was detained for 15 days and could not communicate with her family. She later learned her children called the Mexican consulate because they thought she might have died, and that the Consulate was unresponsive. Twice, she was made to sign paperwork in English that she did not understand. Only later did she learn that she was detained for so long because they kept her as a witness to testify against the person who helped her cross. The whole time she was detained, she felt unwell because they began to give her a medication for her diabetes that was not the same as the one she usually took. It caused headaches, dizziness, joint pain, and inflammation. She saw a doctor once while detained, but because of the language barrier, she was not able to explain the type of diabetes she has. She was deported to Nogales, Sonora without any of her belongings.


KBI sent this complaint on August 10, 2022, to CRCL and copied the Joint Intake Center. The JIC requested her “A” number (identification number assigned to people in detention) and there was no further communication. KBI has received no response from CRCL over nine months later.

III.E. CRCL forwarded complaint to OIG, and case “died” (KBI heard nothing more): 15


“Carlos” was apprehended by Border Patrol in the desert, after he had been forced to work for an organized crime group for six months near Altar, Mexico, due to being unable to pay their extortion fee. He told agents he was afraid to return to Mexico for this reason, and they said they would decide whether to send him to his native Guatemala or to Nogales, Sonora. They expelled him to Nogales at 2 am. As agents were unloading him and other migrants at DeConcini Port of Entry, one agent said “Dónde está el pendejo?” (where is that idiot?), referring to Carlos. When Carlos tried to ask why he was being expelled to Mexico as he is a Guatemalan national, the agent had his baton ready and threatened to hit Carlos in the head. He hit him with the baton on his knee, causing it to swell. Carlos thought it was broken and could barely walk.


KBI sent this complaint on November 4, 2020, and received the first communication about the case on August 15, 2022 (22 months later). A CRCL staff member said he was “in receipt of DHS OIG’s investigation” and wanted to locate Carlos to talk with him. He said, “In the DHS OIG report of investigation, they stated they were unable to locate Mr. [redacted], which was one of the reasons the case was not prosecuted. Would you be able to assist me in locating Mr. [redacted] for an interview?”

Nearly 2 years later, KBI was no longer in contact with Carlos and could not assist. KBI then received a communication stating: “DHS OIG investigated the allegations and subsequently the complaint was referred within DHS. You may contact the DHS OIG for additional information.” A KBI staff member responded to ask how KBI could learn more about the outcome of the OIG investigation. OIG responded that filing a Freedom of Information Act request was the only way to get more information, even if Carlos himself reached out personally to request it.

III.F. CRCL/OPR took initial steps to investigate (i.e. interview with complainant, or planned a site visit), and then case “died”: 2


Border Patrol apprehended “Berto” in the desert after he had been walking for 8 days. The agent put him in cuffs and was yelling at the group to get down and not touch their backpacks. Berto asked if he could get something to drink from his backpack and the agent responded, “No—if you want water, there’s water in your country. This is my country. You just come here to screw around, what are you doing here?” He shoved Berto face down into a rock and kicked his head and stood on top of him with all his weight, yelling “this is my country!” Berto cried out and then lost consciousness. When he came to, blood was flowing over his face. Border Patrol sent a search dog over to lick the blood off his face. The same agent who kicked and stood on him then saw how much he was bleeding and unlocked his cuffs, jabbed him in the side, and signaled that he should run away. But he could only see out of one eye and was in no condition to run.

The agents then walked them to their vehicle. The same agent that had just attacked Berto said not to worry, because they would take him to a good doctor, and laughed. When they arrived at the Border Patrol station in Tucson, the agent who seemed to be the supervisor saw Berto’s face covered in blood and asked what happened. Berto explained and the supervisor took pictures of his injuries. Berto insisted twice that they take him to the hospital, and the supervisor finally did. When the agent assigned to guard him in the hospital asked what had happened and Berto started to tell him, the agent just started laughing and talking to the nurse in English. They expelled Berto to Nogales, Sonora.


KBI sent the complaint to CRCL and OPR on July 11, 2022. An OPR Special Agent did an in-person interview with Berto at the port of entry the following day, but KBI has received no follow-up nearly 1 year later. Berto speaks an indigenous language, and Spanish is his second language. The OPR agent conducted the interview in Spanish but had very weak Spanish skills, so the KBI staff member observing the interview could tell there was a language barrier. Berto finally got an appointment at the port of entry through CBPOne after being stranded in Nogales for eight months, and three months of battling with the CBPOne application.

III.G. CRCL forwarded complaint to JIC/CBP/OPR, and case “died”: 3


“Silvia” was walking in the desert when two Border Patrol agents on four-wheelers came toward her. One of the agents hit her left leg with their four-wheeler, and the impact threw her to the ground. Her whole ankle and lower leg were swollen for days. She received no medical attention for her injuries, and it was not until she was expelled to Nogales, Sonora that she received injections and physical therapy for the pain.


KBI sent the complaint to CRCL and OPR on August 4, 2021; an OPR staff member emailed a Joint Intake Center case number the following day. To this day, KBI has not received any further communication.


“Iliana” was walking in the desert with a group when a Border Patrol vehicle approached and two male agents apprehended them. The agents interviewed them one by one. The agent interviewing Iliana told her he was going to search her so she took off her jacket, leaving her in a T-shirt, so he could see that she wasn’t hiding anything. He said he had to pat her down. She asked if a female agent could do it and he said he had to do it. She repeatedly said she wanted a female agent and he said he would do it. He touched her breasts and crotch during the search. She told him she wasn’t hiding anything and he said, “I want to check again.” He groped her in the same way, touching her breasts. When she was back with the others, she asked the other woman traveling in their group if she had been searched the same way, and she said no.


KBI sent the complaint on November 18, 2021, and CRCL responded about one month later: “CRCL has reviewed your correspondence and shared it with the CBP office responsible for coordinating efforts to prevent sexual abuse and assault in CBP custody in order to inform them of your allegations so they can take the appropriate steps required by regulation and CBP policy.” KBI never heard anything more.

III.H. CRCL emitted recommendations related to complaint: 1


“Claudia” fled Honduras. On her migration journey, she was raped in Mexico. Upon being apprehended by Border Patrol, she was eight months pregnant. As she was walking in the desert, she began to feel contractions. After being apprehended, she told an agent she was in pain and having contractions. She asked to go to the bathroom and once she came back, the agent told her to get in the vehicle. It was only when she saw the port of entry that she realized they were trying to expel her to Mexico, not take her to get medical attention. She told the agents she could not return to Honduras or Mexico for her safety and they told her, “you have to do it legally” and “you can’t come to the United States without permission.”


KBI sent this complaint on April 27, 2020. In early May 2020, CRCL responded that they were forwarding it to OIG. On September 22, 2021, 17 months later, KBI received a CRCL letter stating: “CRCL has concluded its investigation of your complaint alleging that CBP’s treatment of Ms. [redacted] was not in accordance with CBP’s civil rights and civil liberties obligations when it allegedly apprehended Ms. [redacted] while she was pregnant and experiencing contractions and expelled her without providing medical care or a medical screening. Your complaint further alleged that Ms. [redacted] expressed a fear of being returned to Mexico but was not referred to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services prior to her expulsion. Following our investigation, CRCL made recommendations to CBP regarding medical treatment and humanitarian protections for persons subjected to expulsion under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health authority in 42 U.S.C. § 265 (‘Title 42’).”

However, KBI was not made aware of what these recommendations were or how they could see them until a newly hired CRCL staff member reached out in September 2022, more than two years after the complaint’s date of issue. KBI staff asked CRCL to clarify what previously emitted recommendations the office was using as a basis to continually close complaints. The CRCL staff member then pointed KBI to redacted recommendations published on CRCL’s website. [18] The recommendations asked for CBP’s concurrence or non-concurrence within 60 days. KBI has been asking CRCL for information about whether CBP concurred or not, but it has been unable to say. CRCL has no enforcement power to compel agencies to implement their recommendations. Still, CRCL continues to close new complaints that it considers to be related to these recommendations.

In 2020, “Claudia” had been calling KBI monthly to ask about the status of her investigation. By the time CRCL shared information about the recommendations, though, Claudia had stopped calling, and she almost certainly does not know that her complaint ever had any impact. Even though it resulted in a recommendation, the process failed to uphold the dignity of the victim, which should be a basic mission of any accountability office.

III.I. CRCL forwarded complaint to OIG and OPR; allegations were substantiated and referred for disciplinary action: 1


“Marco Antonio” had been walking for several days in the desert when three Border Patrol four-wheelers emerged and quickly closed in on him and his group. He turned and started to run, and a four-wheeler hit him from behind. The front bumper hit him and one of the front wheels ran over his right leg. He started seeing stars and almost passed out from the pain. Marco Antonio was already on the ground, but an agent pushed him down and got on top of him to handcuff him. Marco Antonio shouted in pain and said his leg was injured, but the agent ignored him. Another agent approached, uncuffed him, and asked him if he could walk. He said no, so the agent carried him to a four-wheeler and he drove him over an hour to a place where an ambulance met them. At the hospital, they gave him IV fluids and anesthesia and performed an X-ray. They found that a leg joint was dislocated, and they relocated it. Around 1:00 am, a Border Patrol agent took him out of the hospital and took him to an immigration station. The next day, they transferred him to Nogales and tried to turn him over to Mexican officials, but the officials wouldn’t accept him in his condition, given that he couldn’t walk. So, the Border Patrol drove him back to the immigration station and expelled him at 10:00 pm to Nogales, Sonora when Mexican officials were no longer present.


KBI submitted the complaint on April 4, 2022, and an OPR special agent did an in-person interview at the port of entry the next day. A KBI staff member accompanied Marco Antonio, and though they used an interpreter, they relied on the KBI staff member for some interpretation. For instance, Marco Antonio used the word “canilla” to refer to his shin, which is common in Guatemala, but the interpreter did not understand what it meant, so the KBI staff member had to explain. With KBI’s assistance, Marco Antonio was able to retain legal representation from a non-profit organization to assist with paroled entry into the US. With their help and the collaboration of OPR, he was paroled into the United States six months later due to his need for ongoing medical care stemming from the injury. One year after submitting the complaint, KBI received notice that OIG and OPR had investigated and substantiated the allegations and that the matter was referred for disciplinary action. KBI has no more details about what disciplinary action resulted.

III.J. CRCL Immigration Section responded offering to assist with parole: 1


“Emely” turned herself in to Border Patrol to seek asylum. She was eight months pregnant at the time. She had been walking through the desert and it had been hours since she had last felt the baby move. She told the agent she was pregnant and she hadn’t felt the baby move for hours and asked for medical care so someone could check that everything was okay with her pregnancy. The agent said no, and told her to sit down and wait. They took her to warehouse-like buildings (likely a processing facility), and there an agent looked at her and asked if she was pregnant. When she said yes and asked again for medical attention, he said she had to wait. She saw people in blue surgical uniforms/scrubs, so she approached a man in scrubs and told him she was pregnant and had not felt her baby move for a long time and asked if he could give her a medical check-up. He told her she had to wait. She heard agents yelling at people there, so she decided not to ask for medical care anymore, even though she was concerned because the baby usually moved a lot. They put her and other migrants on buses after night fell and expelled them all to Nogales, Sonora.

The next morning, she woke up with pain in her lower back, which intensified into contractions. At the migrant shelter, they took her to the hospital, where they told her that her baby was no longer alive.


KBI filed a complaint on October 7, 2022, with CRCL, OPR, and OIDO. An OPR Special Agent did a phone interview with Emely a few days later. A staff member from the CRCL Immigration Section also reached out to look into paroling Emely into the United States as a Title 42 exemption based on the gravity of the case. Neither one of these follow-ups resulted in help for Emely because she stopped responding to KBI’s calls.

Other common “failure points” are not necessarily drawn from KBI’s experience filing complaints, but appear to arise frequently enough to deserve mention in the remainder of this section.

III.K. Disciplinary bodies within CBP and DHS close cases or reduce recommended punishments

Even when agencies find that abuses took place, discipline can be elusive.

In fiscal 2021, CBP’s National and Local Use of Force Review Boards (NUFRB and LUFRB, committees of senior leaders from CBP, which may include personnel from the Department of Justice, DHS, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE) reviewed 684 cases of use of force. In 660 cases (96 percent), these boards declined to issue sanctions, finding that CBP agents’ actions were either “within policy” or outside policy with further “action unwarranted.” Of the remaining 24 cases, 11 ended up with counseling for the agents involved; the other 13 cases—including 2 fatal cases—remained under investigation or pending action as of April 2022. [19]

Other examples of lack of discipline include the failure, discussed in Section I above, to discipline Border Patrol agent Jeffrey Rambo for digging into a journalist’s personal information, as well as:

    • The inability of Agent Amanda Cali to hold a co-worker accountable for a sexual assault suffered in August 2020 in upstate New York. According to the New York Times, “She reported the episode to her supervisor, but the supervisor said the agent in question deserved support because he had been at the agency so long.” [20]
    • The case of Janine Bouey, a 60-year-old Black former Los Angeles Police Department officer, who stated that upon crossing through the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego in June 2020, she was repeatedly shackled, sexually assaulted (at one point with a canine), sworn at, and forced to disrobe without privacy by CBP agents. “To her knowledge, no disciplinary action was taken and the officers involved in the incident remain at work,” Alliance San Diego reported. [21]

Another example is Border Patrol’s notorious 2019 “Facebook group” scandal, first revealed by ProPublica. As the House Oversight Committee found in 2021, although CBP’s Discipline Review Board recommended punishments for 60 agents, most saw their penalties reduced, often dramatically. [22]

III.L. OPR fails to respond to complaint

August 30, 2020: Politico Magazine published an account by Tianna Spears, a Black U.S. diplomat who had been assigned to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez. She described CBP officers subjecting her to regular, blatant racial profiling whenever she crossed back into El Paso. “[O]fficers in primary inspection still made sarcastic comments, cruel jokes and belittling jabs implying I was not a U.S. diplomat, not a U.S. citizen and had stolen my own car.” Spears said that as of August 2020, 18 months after complaining to CBP’s upper management, she got no response to her complaint from CBP OPR.

III.M. Victim or witnesses deported without being contacted by investigators

Following the notorious September 2021 incident in which Border Patrol agents on horseback charged at Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, attorneys representing victims lamented that OPR, in July 2022, “released their report without interviewing a single Haitian.” [23] Another prominent recent case was that of Marisol Gómez Alcántara, shot in the head by a Border Patrol agent in 2021 while a passenger in a car, but deported without any contact with investigators. (See the discussion of Ms. Gómez’s case in the “first path” narrative in Section I of this report.)

III.N. OIG carries out an investigation and delays or refuses release of results

A striking example, discussed in Section I above, is the Project on Government Oversight’s (POGO) April 2022 revelation of a 2018 DHS OIG survey that had found more than 10,000 CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. The OIG has never released a report with this survey’s findings, and POGO found that it seriously watered down another report about DHS law-enforcement personnel found to have committed domestic violence when off duty. [24]

[15] “Intake Without Oversight: Firsthand Experiences with the Customs and Border Protection Complaints Process” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative and Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, 2017), https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/IntakeWithoutOversight_v06.pdf.

[16] Joanna Williams, “Letter to Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas,” February 11, 2021, https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/KBI-Complaint-Summary-Cover-Letter-2-11-21.pdf.

[17] “Due Process Denied” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021), https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

[18] Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez and Susan Mathias, “Complaint 20-07-CBP-0640: Providing Medical Care and Humanitarian Protections to Undocumented Individuals During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” (Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, August 13, 2021), https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-06/2021.08.13%20Recommendations%20Memo%20to%20CBP_Title%2042_Redacted_Accessible.pdf.

[19] “Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability FY2021” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, April 14, 2022), https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/report-internal-investigations-and-employee-accountability-fy2021.

[20] Eileen Sullivan, “Top Border Patrol Official Resigned Amid Allegations of Improper Conduct,” The New York Times, January 22, 2023, sec. U.S., https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/21/us/politics/top-border-patrol-official-resigned.html.

[21] “Abuse, Assault and Impunity at DHS Must Stop: Former LAPD Officer Subjected to Sexual Assault by DHS Sues the Agency,” Alliance San Diego, June 16, 2021, https://www.alliancesd.org/abuse_assault_and_impunity_at_dhs_must_stop_former_lapd_officer_subjected_to_sexual_assault_by_dhs_sues_the_agency.

[22] “Border Patrol Agents in Secret Facebook Group Faced Few Consequences for Misconduct” (Washington: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Accountability Democrats, September 14, 2021), https://oversightdemocrats.house.gov/cbp-report.

[23] Rafael Bernal, “Haitian Advocates File Lawsuit against Biden Administration over Del Rio,” Text, The Hill (blog), September 30, 2022, https://thehill.com/latino/3669222-haitian-advocates-file-lawsuit-against-biden-administration-over-del-rio/.

[24] Adam Zagorin and Nick Schwellenbach, “Protecting the Predators at DHS,” Project On Government Oversight, April 7, 2022, https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2022/04/protecting-the-predators-at-dhs.


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