Organizational Culture Events

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

April 15, 2020

An investigation by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center reports:

“A detainee locator system allows family members, lawyers, and other advocates to pinpoint exactly where a particular person is being held.[31] Typically, the use of such a system requires knowledge of the detainee’s country of origin and “alien number” (“A number”), or their exact full name, country of origin and date of birth. Unlike ICE, CBP has never implemented a detainee locator system, nor does it facilitate visitation or communications with family or lawyers. CBP’s refusal to do these things aggravates the harms that stem from the agency’s practice of separating family members through processing and detention. Although ICE’s system is far from perfect, advocates and families rely on it to locate their clients and loved ones.”

“[31]: As CBP has recognized, “[t]he intent of creating a [detainee locator system] is to provide the general public with an accessible system that would allow the public to conduct online Internet-based queries to locate persons detained by CBP for administrative and/or criminal violations.” U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION, ONLINE DETAINEE LOCATOR SYSTEM (FY2017 Report to Congress), ii (Dec. 4, 2017) [hereinafter “CBP Detainee Locator Report”], https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CBP%20- %20Online%20Detainee%20Locator%20System_0.pdf.”

Source: ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, “Separation of Families via CBP Detention and Processing, and the Agency’s Refusal to Implement a Detainee Locator System” (San Diego and El Paso, April 15, 2020) <https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-04-15-dhs-oig-cmplt-3-final.pdf>.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Family Separation

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

April 15, 2020

An investigation by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center “identified a number of troubling cases in which CBP processing and/or detention led to family separations, including:”

  • “A woman whose heart condition worsened when, during processing, the Border Patrol separated her and her sister and transferred her sister to a different detention center without any advance notice or opportunity to say goodbye;
  • A mother and her two sons (one a minor) apprehended by the Border Patrol and detained in a nearby station; when the mother, who had seriously injured her knee during her journey to the United States, was taken to a hospital for surgery, she was separated from her boys, who were left detained separately at the Border Patrol station. After her return from the hospital, the Border Patrol released the mother and minor son into the United States together, but separated the older son from them and transferred him to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detention; [12]
  • A grandmother who Border Patrol agents separated from her nine-year-old grandson after agents told her that his birth certificate was insufficient to establish biological familial ties. The grandmother was left anguished and fearful that her grandson would be given up to a U.S. family for adoption; and
  • A family of nine which CBP separated into three different family units—notwithstanding the fact that all nine family members initially entered the United States together—and subjected to the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols.” The entire family was forcibly removed to Mexico, with each of the three “units” then receiving different master calendar hearing dates. This, in turn, resulted in separate nonrefoulement interviews. The stress of this arbitrary and inefficient separation of family members led the mother in the family to experience hyperventilating, vomiting, headache, and chest pain while awaiting her own nonrefoulement interview.”

“[12]: This family also included a father and two additional minor children, who had been separated from the mother and sons while crossing into the United States. Although the father saw one of his sons through a glass window while detained at the Border Patrol station and tried to explain to agents that his wife and other children were on site, the Border Patrol made no effort to reunite the family, and did not tell the mother that her partner was detained at the same station.”

Source: ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, “Separation of Families via CBP Detention and Processing, and the Agency’s Refusal to Implement a Detainee Locator System” (San Diego and El Paso, April 15, 2020) <https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-04-15-dhs-oig-cmplt-3-final.pdf>.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

April 2020

“A Honduran woman gave birth to her baby while standing up, holding on to the side of a trash can in a Border Patrol station, she and her family told the American Civil Liberties Union. She was still wearing her pants. They were in the midst of being processed by agents at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station near San Diego, and she had repeatedly asked the agents for help, telling them how much pain she was in. Instead, 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. He lowered them and saw his baby’s head. Their daughters, ages 2 and 12, looked on.

The dramatic birth was detailed in a complaint provided to BuzzFeed News and filed Wednesday by the ACLU and Jewish Family Service of San Diego with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. The complaint, based on interviews with the family and a review of the woman’s medical records, accuses the Border Patrol agents involved of abuse, demanding the inspector general conduct an investigation.”

Source: Buzzfeed News, “A Woman Gave Birth in a Border Patrol Station Still Wearing Her Pants. Now the Aclu Is Accusing the Agency of Abuse.” April 2020 <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/pregnant-woman-birth-border-patrol-aclu-complaint>.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care

Accountability Status: No further action, Shared with DHS OIG