July 7, 2020

An investigation by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center “identified many instances in which Border Patrol agents verbally abused individuals, including children, in their custody. This abuse may involve bullying, harassment, threats of violence or other harm, denigration, ridicule, racism, and misstatements about U.S. immigration law, including an individual’s right to seek asylum. Recently detained individuals related the following statements to our investigator: [28]”

  • “Olvídate del asilo, a la mejor te quitamos a tu hija.”

“Forget about asylum, we might just take away your daughter.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman while interrogating her about why she came to the United States.

  • “No mantenemos hijos de nadie.”

“We don’t take care of anyone’s children.”

—Border Patrol agent to a mother when she asked for food for her 1-year old child who had not had any food to eat for an entire day.

  • “Pendejadas las tuyas, esa mentira ya me la creo yo.”

“Your words are bullshit, I stopped believing that lie.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman trying to explain she had fled her country of origin to escape from her abusive partner.

  • “Cabrona, échate para atrás.”

“You bastard, get back over there.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman as she was entering the country and injured from crossing the border wall.

  • “¿Desgraciada, ¿porque tienes tantos niños si no los puedes cuidar? Puta, prostituta.” “Disgraced woman, why do you have so many kids if you can’t take care of them? Slut, prostitute.”

—Border Patrol agent to a detained mother.

  • “¿Trajiste a tu hija a los EEUU para prostituirla?”

“Did you bring your daughter to the U.S. to prostitute her?”

—Border Patrol agent to a mother with a 15-year-old daughter.

  • “¿Cuáles de ustedes maricas sufren de asma?”

“Which of you faggots suffer from asthma?”

—Border Patrol agent to a holding cell of young boys aged 13 to 17.

  • “If you keep complaining I will put you with the dogs.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman when she refused to undress for a search during apprehension.

  • “Yo mismo te voy a deportar, te voy a echar a México y vas a correr.”

“I am going to deport you myself, I will send you back to Mexico and you’ll have to run.”

—Border Patrol agent to man upon apprehension in the United States.

  • “Ya saben a que vienen, ¿porque te quejas? ¿Qué, quieren una coca fría? ¡Aquí no es un hotel!”

“You know where you were coming, why are you complaining? What, did you want a cold soda? This is not a hotel!”

—Border Patrol agent to a cell of detained mothers as their children were crying and pleading for food.

  • “Son indios de pata rajada, solo usan sus hijos para entrar.”

“You are all [derogatory expression referring to indigenous peoples], you only use your children to enter [the United States].”

—Border Patrol agent to detained father.

  • “¡Aquí no se hace lo que voz dice, se hace lo que yo digo!”

“Here we don’t do what you say, you do what I say!

—Border Patrol agent to pregnant woman asking for water.

  • “Are you fucking retarded? Stop playing with that shit.”

—Border Patrol agent to children playing in holding cell.

  • “Váyanse de aquí, ¿qué hacen aquí sí ni hablan inglés?, no valen nada.”

“Get out of here, what are you doing here if you don’t even speak English, you are worthless.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman and her family upon apprehension.

  • “He’s not even your son, you’re too old, he’s your grandson.”

—Border Patrol agent to an older woman and her child upon apprehension.

  • “No estás en tu casa, ¿tienes mierda en la cabeza?”

“You’re not at home, do you have shit for brains?”

—Border Patrol agent to woman who asked for a plastic cup to drink water.

  • “Joder con ustedes, por eso no mejoran en su país.”

“I’ve fucking had it with you, this is why you guys don’t advance in your country.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained woman who did not understand his Spanish.

  • “Usan sus hijos como si fueran pasaporte.”

“You all use your kids as if they were a passport.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained woman.

  • “If you can eat and pee you’re okay.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained man with severe flu symptoms.

  • “If you would have never left your country you would not have to go through this.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained woman as she begged to not be returned to Tijuana under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (“MPP”) (also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy).

  • “What is going on in your guys’ country that you think the government here will take care of you?”

—Border Patrol agent to 8-months-pregnant woman during processing.

  • “No me interesa porque te haz venido, por las buenas o las malas te regresas.”

“I don’t care why you’ve come here, for better or worse you’re going back.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained father before putting his family into MPP.

  • “I know guys like you, always on the streets.”

—Border Patrol agent to a 16-year-old boy during interrogation without his mom present while she was in separate holding cell.

  • “I don’t care, it’s not my life, not my problem.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained woman as she tried to explain why she had left her country of origin.

  • “I don’t have to tell you, you broke the law, you have no rights.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman when she asked what was on the form she was being instructed to sign.

  • “¡Levántense, puercas!”

“Get up, pigs!”

—Border Patrol agent to a cell of detained women.

  • “This is jail, not a hotel.”

—Border Patrol agent to woman who asked for an instant soup instead of a cold burrito.

  • “Why do they only send us their trash? You are all trash!”

—Border Patrol agent to cell full of detained women and children.

  • “You are acting like a dumbass! I am tired of you!”

—Border Patrol agent to teenage girl after she declined agent’s request to remove her sweatshirt because of freezing temperatures in holding cell.

  • “I am treating you the way illegals should be treated!”

—Border Patrol agent to mother of teenage girl who stood up for her daughter after agent ridiculed her and told agent to “stop yelling at us.”

  • “You are an idiot but you sure are good at popping out kids.”

—Border Patrol agent to detained mother.

“[28]: Most of ACLU’s interviews were conducted in Spanish, with contemporaneous notes taken in Spanish by our investigator. Where our notes contain the original Spanish quotes, we have provided that original (as relayed by the interviewee to our investigator) as well as our English translation. At times, our investigator memorialized a statement in English only during her interview (via simultaneous translation). In such cases, we have reproduced her English translation here.

“Many of these quotes use degrading and offensive language that we hesitated to reprint. In the end, we decided to reproduce the language reported to remain as faithful as possible to the accounts of those we interviewed.”

Source: ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, “Re: U.S. Border Patrol’s Verbal Abuse of Detained Individuals” (San Diego and El Paso, July 7, 2020) <https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-07-07-dhs-oig-cmplt-4-final.pdf>.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Asylum, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG