Organizational Culture Events

Examples of abuses or other behaviors indicating need for reform at U.S. border and migration institutions

March 2020

“The following cases and patterns of persistent toxic behavior are from a March 2020 complaint, by the ACLU to the CRCL and DHS OIG, about Border Patrol Station 1 in El Paso, Texas failing to adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Border Patrol Station 1 in El Paso failed to respond to the COVID-19  pandemic by any public health metric. Agents failed to inform those detained of vital public health information; make vital, basic logistical accommodations to mitigate  and prevent spread of the virus amongst detained persons and agents; or provide basic  sanitary needs to prevent dissemination of the virus. The complaint calls for an  investigation of the conditions and recommends various needed protocols.”

“i. Held over 150 persons in a single room with persons exhibiting flu-like symptoms;  

ii. Failed to provide information to detained individuals on the COVID-19  pandemic, such as recommended Center for Disease Control and  Prevention (CDC) guidelines for preventing transmission of the virus; 

iii. Held people in cells where they are forced to be in close contact with each  other, including by sleeping approximately three feet apart; 

iv. Failed to provide detained individuals with sufficient soap. (for example, migrants reported that in one bathroom, only one of six sinks had a soap  dispenser that in fact contained soap); 

v. Provided only a single square of toilet paper per use; 

vi. Denied detained individuals access to hand sanitizer;  

vii. Failed to provide adequate medical screening of detained individuals not  exhibiting symptoms of illness; and  

viii. Failed to ensure uniform access to personal protective equipment for  everyone in the detention facility.”

Source: Shaw Drake and Jonathan Blazer, ACLU, Letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas, “Re: Unresolved Complaints of CBP Misconduct Require Immediate Attention and Accountability,” March 3, 2021.  

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Disregard to Public Health

Accountability Status: Complaint filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

March 23, 2020

“On March 23, U.S. Border Patrol officers stopped Gilmer Barrios at a checkpoint on I-15 north between Fallbrook and Temecula. Barrios, who had a pending immigration case to gain legal status in the U.S., was on his way home to Temecula from San Diego County when he passed an immigration checkpoint residents say has been largely dormant for years, but has become active again during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Border agents quickly deported Barrios to Tijuana. Barrios had an open case in U.S. immigration court, no prior deportation order and is a Guatemalan citizen – so if he was going to be deported, it shouldn’t have been to Tijuana. After 21 days in Tijuana, with help of the Guatemalan consul general in Los Angeles, he was brought back to the United States.”

Source: Voice of San Diego, “Border Patrol Activity in Rural North County Alarms Farmworkers, Advocates” May 27, 2020.<>.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Inappropriate Deportation

Accountability Status: No steps taken

March 2020

“Ms. Doe fled Cuba along with her husband in June 2019. They arrived at the United States- Mexico border in September 2019 and presented themselves at the Hidalgo Port of Entry to seek asylum. They were detained for two days in CBP custody before being placed in the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (“MPP”) and forced to remain in Mexico during the pendency of their immigration court proceedings. Over the next several months, they were paroled into the United States for multiple court hearings. At the conclusion of each hearing, they were returned to the city of Reynosa in Mexico. In March 2020, an immigration judge denied Ms.Doe and her husband asylum. They both reserved appeal and were returned to Reynosa for an indefinite period of time. There, the couple faced the tremendous challenges of navigating a global pandemic in a foreign country, without critical resources. Ms.Doe and her husband both fell ill, yet due to their lack of access to medical care, they could not get treatment. Ms. Doe’s husband additionally suffered threats and extortion in Mexico.

Fearful of ever-present threats to their safety, overwhelmed by unrelenting pandemic circumstances, and without legal counsel, the couple was unable to timely submit their immigration appeal. Consequently, the pair made the difficult decision to request asylum once more at a port of entry—this time, in Tijuana. When they arrived at the port of entry, however, U.S. immigration officers told the couple that the border was “closed” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and turned them away.”

Source: ACLU, “Unresolved OIG Complaints” p. 123, March 2020. <>

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Asylum, Denial of Medical Care

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG