September 20, 2021

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection improperly targeted American citizens that the agency suspected were involved with a 2018-19 migrant caravan with intrusive additional inspections, according to a new Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s report.

The inspector general also found that a Customs and Border Protection official asked the Mexican government in December 2018 to block 14 U.S. citizens from entering Mexico as the caravan approached the U.S. border even though it had “no genuine basis” to do so.

The report, dated Sept. 20 but not yet publicly released, documents one instance where CBP officials placed “lookouts” — electronic alerts that lead to more intrusive inspections when crossing the U.S. border — on 15 Americans who had previously crossed the border with or were connected via social media to someone who CBP suspected might be planning violence at the border. But CBP didn’t have any information that those 15 Americans were involved in planning any of the violence or were present at an intrusion into the U.S.

One American crossing the border was referred to additional security scrutiny when crossing the border six times in a single month, the report found. During a second “inspection,” the person was handcuffed to a bench, “possibly for several hours” until officers from the Tactical Terrorism Response Team arrived to conduct an interview. The report said that the lookout was placed to obtain the phone number and information about a different person but that there is no evidence that officers ever sought the information for which the lookout was placed.”

Source: Politico, “Watchdog: Cbp Improperly Targeted Americans as Caravans Approached Border”, September 2021. <https://www.politico.com/news/2021/09/23/cbp-americans-caravans-border-513829>

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG