January 22, 2020

The following cases and patterns of persistent toxic behavior are from a January 22, 2020 complaint about abuse and mistreatment of detained pregnant people filed by the ACLU to CRCL and DHS OIG.

“CBP agents mistreated detained pregnant people and held them in inhumane conditions. The complaint includes the detailed accounts of four women who were mistreated, abused, and/or neglected by CBP while detained.”

“Border Patrol stations lacked bedding, showers, and staff trained to interact with or assist traumatized or otherwise vulnerable populations, include pregnant people who are at risk of dire health outcomes (including miscarriages and stillbirths).”

“A woman reported that, during her initial processing, a Border Patrol agent subjected her to excessive force. The agent, apparently infuriated that she and her  friend were speaking to each other while awaiting processing, forcibly grabbed  her by the arm and took her out of her seat. The agent then grabbed her by the shoulders from behind and slammed her face-first against a chain link fence three  times. She attempted to shield her protruding stomach from the fence—crying out  “You’re hurting me! I’m pregnant!”—yet the agent continued to throw her against  the fence.”

“Another woman reported that the food she received was spoiled and served cold;  she could not bring herself to eat it. She feared the water was not potable because the water supply was connected to (and on top of) the toilet in her cell. She was not provided with any hygiene products (toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary pads).  Taken into custody in wet and mud-covered clothing, she was neither permitted a change of clothing nor provided a chance to shower for the duration of her detention.”

“Additional information obtained from a FOIA request filed by the ACLU National Prison Project… The ACLU received a CRCL spreadsheet which included 42 additional cases involving CBP’s mistreatment of pregnant persons. Reported conduct ranges from verbal abuse to physical assault to failed provision of medical care.

“On April 10, 2019, CRCL received a CBP Info Center referral regarding alleged CBP misconduct towards a family, including a pregnant mother, at the Ambassador Bridge port of entry in Detroit, Michigan. The complaint alleges that  15 CBP officers surrounded their vehicle and groped the pregnant woman and her  15- month-old child in their genital areas during a search of the family and  vehicle. The father described the officers as racist, unprofessional, and inadequately trained.”

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): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Gender-based Violence, Use of Force

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