Organizational Culture Events where the event type is “Disregard to Public Health”

August 3, 2021

On August 3, 2021, two individuals were killed and eight were injured as a result of a vehicle pursuit by Border Patrol near Border Patrol’s permanent interior checkpoint on New Mexico State Road 185. Details of the events surrounding the crash are only available via CBP’s own press release, which the agency did not issue until August 17, 2021, fourteen days after the incident. CBP’s statement initially reported only one death and did not include information about the U.S. citizen who died as a result of the vehicle pursuit and crash.

Early in the morning of August 3, 2021, a Border Patrol agent assigned to the Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S. Border Patrol Station was reportedly patrolling New Mexico State Road 185 approximately six miles south of the Border Patrol checkpoint, which is located approximately 69 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. According to CBP, the agent witnessed a northbound vehicle pull to the side of the road and then proceed north. The Border Patrol agent reportedly followed the vehicle without activating his emergency equipment. The vehicle reportedly evaded the Border Patrol checkpoint by driving onto the southbound lanes of New Mexico State Road 185 and then continued north, at which time the Border Patrol agent activated his emergency equipment and attempted to stop the vehicle. Another Border Patrol unit also reportedly pursued the vehicle. Approximately three miles north of the Border Patrol checkpoint, the vehicle crashed. Several occupants were ejected from the vehicle. The agency’s statement simply claims “the driver lost control and crashed,” but does not indicate the location or conduct of Border Patrol
agents’ vehicles immediately preceding the crash.

Source: ACLU Texas, “ACLU demands Customs and Border Protection investigate recent deadly vehicle pursuit, release vehicle pursuit policy”, August 2021. <https://www.aclutx.org/en/press-releases/aclu-demands-customs-and-border-protection-investigate-recent-deadly-vehicle-pursuit>

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Disregard to Public Health, Weak Oversight

Accountability Status: No steps taken

July 23, 2021

“ICE continues to fail to take necessary public health measures, including releasing qualified individuals, and
therefore Arizona immigration detention centers remain hotbeds for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Migrants continue to raise concerns about their inability to socially isolate, lack of access to PPE and
cleaning materials (including soap), and lack of access to nutritious meals. Those who are in medical
isolation complain they are only allowed out of their cell for 20 minutes a day and often are forced to choose
between showering and calling legal service providers.

Migrants’ access to mail and the library has impacted their ability to defend their own cases pro se, in
particular with looming, inflexible deadlines in front of the BIA. Hearings in immigration court remain
unpredictable and susceptible to last minute cancellation due to the pandemic. Defense attorneys are often
not notified until the last moment or during hearings that their clients will not be able to attend.

On April 20, 2020, a Federal District Court granted a nationwide injunction requiring ICE to make speedy
custody redeterminations for detained individuals whose specific medical conditions put them at higher risk
of suffering severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19. In Arizona detention centers, ICE has not only
failed to proactively release many of these individuals but has also failed to respond to humanitarian parole
requests submitted on their behalf. For example, numerous medically vulnerable Florence Project clients
have submitted humanitarian parole requests which, in some cases after months, still have not been
responded to. In the interim, some of these individuals have contracted COVID-19.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative, “July 23 Update From KBI”, July 2021.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): ICE

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard to Public Health, Weak Oversight

Accountability Status: Complaint filed with CRCL

June 15, 2021

“In late June 2021, ACLU representatives joined a brief official tour of the Anzalduas TOPS, during
which Border Patrol representatives described the site as being used exclusively to
hold families with children under 7 years old.

The temperature was in the 90s. For the dozens of children and adults detained
outdoors in the heat, only a fan and a set of overhead sprinklers provided plainly
inadequate cooling. At a meeting in May, a Border Patrol representative justified
holding families in the South Texas summer heat by egregiously claiming that the
conditions are preferable to many migrants, who Border Patrol described as “not
used to air conditioning.”

In addition to having no basic temperature controls, the TOPS has a bare-bones
structure that lacks other minimal protections. Families are funneled through a
series of outdoor areas surrounded by plastic fencing. We observed them being held
in an area with hard benches and gravel as the only places to rest or sleep.

Border Patrol told us there is no medical staff on site beyond emergency medical
personnel, and the nearest paved road to get to medical aid is a five to 10 minute
drive away. Border Patrol has even given us conflicting answers about what, if any,
detention standards apply to the site. This is particularly troubling since detention
standards mandate a “reasonable and comfortable” temperature for those detained
— contrary to the very design of the TOPS.

Just last week in the Rio Grande Valley, we interviewed recently released families
with small children who reported that thousands of people were being held at the

site. Every family reported spending two or three days under the bridge. Mothers
shared that Border Patrol denied their pleas for medical care for sick children and
that they experienced miserable conditions in high temperatures.

The TOPS has also been shrouded in secrecy. There are no telephones for migrants,
and, like all Border Patrol facilities, no in-person visits are allowed. As pictures of a
make-shift outdoor site began to surface earlier this year showing families with
small children sleeping on the ground in corral-like holding areas, we filed a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking details. We wanted to know
how long people were being held outdoors and how Border Patrol was ensuring the
safety of those in custody. Over four months later, the agency still hasn’t responded
to our FOIA request.

Subsequent reporting and our own interviews confirmed that families were being
held outdoors under the bridge for multiple days, without adequate access to
medical care, subjected to verbal abuse by Border Patrol agents, and suffering from
first cold springtime and then hot summer temperatures.”

Source: ACLU, “Border Patrol Must Stop Holding People in an Inhumane Outside Pen Under a Highway in South Texas”, August 2021. <https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/border-patrol-must-stop-holding-people-in-an-inhumane-outside-pen-under-a-highway-in-south-texas/>

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Accountability Status: No steps taken

January 11, 2021

On January 11, 2021, Erik Mercado Arechiga reported to the Freedom for Immigrants National Hotline that the detention facility is supposed to pay a detained worker to clean the showers in the unit but they are leaving that position unfilled. The showers are shared with individuals who have COVID-19 and those who do not. The showers are extremely filthy; people don’t even want to go in them to shower. Mr. Mercado Arechiga reported that he walked into the showers and couldn’t even stomach the filth, so he washed himself in a sink.

Source: Freedom for Immigrants, “CRCL Complaint Erik Mercado Arechiga”, January 2021. <https://share.mayfirst.org/s/F2soW64cQDRr6fe?dir=undefined&path=%2F&openfile=8425396>

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): ICE

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard to Public Health

Accountability Status: Complaint filed with CRCL, No further action

March 27, 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