Organizational Culture Events where the event type is “Family Separation”

October 21, 2021

“In the past two months alone,” Human Rights First reports, “DHS has denied parole requests for many vulnerable asylum seekers, including a Honduran lesbian couple who were raped by Mexican police, a Honduran family with a seven-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, a homeless Haitian asylum seeker living with HIV, and Mexican LGBTQ+ asylum seekers who were sexually assaulted and beaten in Mexico. Even when CBP officers at ports of entry have granted urgent requests for humanitarian parole, this has often come only after complaints to DHS headquarters – and officers have still refused to parole accompanying family members, leading to family separations.”

Source: Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) <https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Denial of Asylum, Family Separation, Inappropriate Deportation

Accountability Status: No steps taken, Unknown

September 2021

“In September 2021, DHS expelled an asylum-seeking Haitian family to Haiti after holding them for days in a freezing cell without sufficient food. DHS separated the family from an adult brother who had crossed into Del Rio, Texas with them where they had attempted to seek asylum together based on political persecution. The family remains in hiding in Haiti, terrified their persecutors will find them, according to Blaine Bookey from the UC Hastings Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.”

Source: Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) <https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks>.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, DHS

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Asylum, Denial of Food or Water, Family Separation

Accountability Status: Unknown

August 14, 2021

“A woman from Guatemala who was migrating with her younger sister was expelled to Nogales
last week after Border Patrol apprehended the sisters in the desert. Because the younger sister
was a minor and her older sister was not her legal guardian, the sisters were separated when
they were apprehended. The younger sister was kept in the custody of the Office of Refugee
Resettlement, and the older sister was expelled to Nogales. Border Patrol gave her no
information whatsoever about what they had done with her younger sister, and she had
no idea how to locate her. She was one of three women who came through KBI recently in the
same situation.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative, “August 19 Update From KBI”, August 2021. <https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lw3sTn0rVUN0YEpJquEhaJKRdplKFeV3/view?usp=sharing>

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Accountability Status: Unknown

July 23, 2021

“A Honduran man, his wife, and daughter entered the United States near McAllen, Texas where they were detained. They were kept under an overpass with hundreds of other migrants. The agents took their temperatures and biometric data. There was a medical tent, but the family could not get medical attention. Their infant daughter became sick while they were there. Although they asked for medical attention for their baby, the agents refused to provide any. They were held there for three days. This family was exposed to the elements and went without basic necessities like running water, beds to sleep in, etc. They were only fed twice a day. Border Patrol would periodically call names to board buses; if you missed your name, you had to wait until next time they came to call your name. Because of this, people chose to remain awake rather than risk missing their chance to leave. The father recalls the brutal sleep deprivation this caused. After three days the Border Patrol transferred them to a facility. At the facility the agents confiscated all their belongings (clothes, medicine, diapers, phone chargers, etc.). They were not given anything to eat at the facility for the whole day. The father was temporarily separated from his wife and daughter and placed in a separate holding facility with about fifty others, who had been at the facility for some time. Eventually, the agents took down details of the family members they had in the US and told them they could leave once their family members had paid for their travel. This was a lie. The family was instead taken to the airport and flown to Tucson, AZ and then expelled to Nogales, Sonora.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, August 2021. <https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf>.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Asylum, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

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

July 5, 2021

“A Guatemalan woman, her sister (19), brother, and son entered the United States and were all detained by border patrol. At that time the agent was very nice to them and gave them water and took them to a Border Patrol station. They were subsequently moved to Tucson. There, CBP processed the sister first, and a female CBP agent reached into her sister’s shirt and grabbed sister’s documents from her bra. Her brother was separated from them, and she did not have any information about his whereabouts as of July 10. She was never told why they separated her brother from her. She was also then separated from her sister, who CBP says tried to escape them while they were walking in the desert. The woman told agents several times that her sister had not tried to escape apprehension and that they had been together the whole time. The officers told her “You are not in your country. We are in charge here.” In the facility, the staff at the station refused to give them blankets. In the early morning, she was reunited with her sister on a bus. She tried several times to tell them she was seeking asylum, but no one listened. CBP kept telling them that this was their country, and they were in charge. The woman, her sister, and son were expelled to Nogales, Sonora in the early morning.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, August 2021. <https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Asylum, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

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

July 4, 2021

“A Guatemalan mother and her four children who had fled persecution in their home country entered the US
on July 4th with a packet of evidence related to their asylum case, including police reports that document
their attempts to seek protection. When apprehended by Border Patrol, she tried to show agents that
evidence. Instead, two ASID (Alien Smuggler Identification and Deterrence) agents interrogated her for
around half an hour about who she had paid and how she had crossed. They refused to listen to her or
look at any documents related to her asylum claim and threatened that if she didn’t give them the
information they wanted on the smuggler she would face serious consequences. They asked her for her
husband’s number. Since he is in the US and is in the asylum process, she thought that they would call
him as part of processing her for asylum. Instead, they only called her husband to ask whether he paid the
cartel and, if so, how much money. Before expelling the mother and her four children, a Border Patrol
agent said to her that she should pass on the message of: “Don’t come here. You aren’t going to get
anything. If you bring kids, you won’t accomplish anything.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative, “July 9 Update From KBI”, July 2021.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Denial of Asylum, Family Separation

Accountability Status: Complaint filed with CRCL

June 30, 2021

“A Guatemalan man, his wife, and son entered the United States with the intention to seek asylum. They crossed and encountered Border Patrol. The Border Patrol asked if their objective was to seek asylum, and the father said yes. The family was then transported to an outpost and processed. A CBP officer asked where they were from but did not ask any other questions. They were transported to a facility in Tucson, where the man was separated from his wife and son. They were all moved between several different detention centers, and the only time the man was able to see his wife and son was during transport. In one of the facilities, he told an agent he feared returning to Guatemala. The agent laughed in his face and said something to the other agents, who all laughed. He felt so humiliated and discouraged to ask for asylum again. He was moved four times to different border facilities. Finally, he and his family were expelled in the very early morning hours without ever being given a fear assessment or referred to the USCIS.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, August 2021. <https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Asylum, Family Separation

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

June 17, 2021

“Last week, a Honduran father of 5 whose wife is 3 months pregnant was detained by ICE as he and his
family were processed through the consortium process at the downtown Nogales port of entry. The father
does not have any criminal history in the US, and Spanish is the family’s second language, as they are part
of the Garífuna indigenous community in Honduras. As the mother shared in her testimony at the interfaithSaveAsylum event this week, when the father was separated from his family, the CBP officer assured his wife that he would only be detained a day or two, but he has now been separated from his family for over a
week. His wife, who is stranded waiting for her husband’s release at a shelter in Tucson with their 5 children,
attempted to set an appointment to visit her husband at La Palma, but was unable to do so because the
visitation phone system is all in English. She has not received any clarity about when her husband will be
released, and a week after his detention had not been able to make any contact since she does not have
money to put in his commissary.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative, “June 24 Update From KBI”, June 2021.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Accountability Status: No steps taken

May 11, 2021

“A Guatemalan woman traveling with her son and brother were detained by Border Patrol once they entered the United States and processed at an open-air border facility. At the open-air facility, they did not ask them why they were in the US or give them a chance to claim asylum. There, she was separated from her brother. She was told this was because he was a minor and not her son. She told the agent she had a power of attorney paper signed by her mother to care for her brother and presented the papers. They didn’t accept the papers. They transferred them to Tucson. The three of them had fled Guatemala because of the murder of family members. In the Tucson facility, she could see her brother detained separately with the other minors. That was the last time she saw her brother as of the time this complaint was filed. At the Tucson facility, she told an agent she was afraid to return to Guatemala and she tried to show documentation of violence, the death certificates of her family members killed by organized crime. The CBP agent told her that her documents were likely fake because she comes from a “corrupt” country. In addition, the CBP agents said that every day, immigrants come to the facility with this type of paperwork. She tried to persuade him to look up the names of the murders online so he could see she was telling him the truth and the documents were real. He did not. She and her son were expelled to Nogales, Sonora.”

Source: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Due Process Denied, August 2021. <https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf>.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Denial of Asylum, Family Separation

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

March 7, 2021

Description: A Cuban man and his wife crossed into the United States and were  detained. He was searched and their documents were confiscated. The man was  separated from his wife, even though his wife told the agents they were together.  He was transferred to Campo BP Station in California, and when he was being  transferred he was told he would be reunited with his wife at the detention center.  While in detention, he was not allowed to shower for five days, and the lights were  always kept on. There, a border patrol agent interviewed him in Spanish. The agent  asked him about his relatives but did not ask anything about asylum. The man asked  if he could present his case. The CBP agent said no, as that was for a courtroom with  a lawyer. The man asked why the agent didn’t ask him why he left Cuba, and the  agent still said no. After five days, they transported the man to expel him, very early  in the morning. The man says he was disoriented but once he heard he was being  expelled he said he can’t leave without his wife. He was told his wife would be  joining him soon. This was not true. He was not reunited with his wife and was  expelled to Tijuana, Baja California in the early morning hours. A week later, he tried  to cross again at Yuma as his wife was still in CBP custody. He was then expelled to  Nogales. 

Sector(s): Yuma

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation, Inappropriate Deportation, Non-Return of Belongings

Accountability Status: Complaint filed with CRCL

November 5, 2020

On August 2, 2021, the Boston College Civil Rights Clinic and Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on behalf of Neisa Ortega and her 14-year-old daughter. On multiple occasions over the course of a year, Ms. Ortega and her daughter were separated for hours without explanation and Ms. Ortega subjected to repeated invasive body searches and sexual violations at the hands of CBP officers while travelling through Logan Airport in Boston.

The complaint alleges that CBP subjected Ms. Ortega to illegal and unconstitutional treatment upon her returns from family visits to the Dominican Republic. Beginning in April 2019, CBP officers assaulted, degraded, and humiliated Ms. Ortega on three separate occasions through invasive body cavity searches that contravened CBP’s internal guidelines prohibiting officers from conducting vaginal cavity searches. During these body cavity searches, CBP officers separated Ms. Ortega from her daughter for hours, during which time neither was given information as to the other’s whereabouts. Ms. Ortega and her daughter have been traumatized by their separation from each other, and Ms. Ortega still lives with the trauma of being physically abused and sexually violated. 

On November 5, 2020, Ms. Ortega filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL); CRCL summarily closed the complaint on March 30, 2021. On January 19, 2021, Ms. Ortega filed an administrative claim with CBP on behalf of herself and her daughter under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA); CBP likewise denied the claim in full on June 17, 2021. Having exhausted administrative remedies under the FTCA, Ms. Ortega filed this lawsuit claiming Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory relief pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) and the FTCA.

Source: Hold CBP Accountable, “Ortega, et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection”, August 2021. <https://holdcbpaccountable.org/2021/08/27/ortega-et-al-v-u-s-customs-and-border-protection/>

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Family Separation, Sexual Assault

Accountability Status:

October 3, 2020

At the beginning of October, a pregnant woman migrating with her husband in the Sonoran desert was
experiencing pre-term contractions when CBP officials encountered her. CBP transported the mother to
Tucson Medical Center to undergo an emergency cesarean section, and detained the father, separating him
from the rest of the family. CBP removed him to Mexico within a few days. The Florence Project feared that
the mother, upon discharge from the hospital, would be returned to Mexico pursuant to Title 42 while her
newborn, nursing son remained in the neonatal intensive care unit. Thankfully, through Florence Project
representation and congressional advocacy, CBP granted the mother parole. The father remains separated from his family, and it is unclear whether the mother would have remained with her newborn without
significant intervention from a third party.

Source: Kino Border Initiative, “October 15 Update from KBI”, October 2020.

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Accountability Status: No steps taken, Shared with congressional oversight committees

September 8, 2020

Ms. Doe’s harrowing ten-day period of detention in DHS custody began on September 8, 2020, when she and her husband once again attempted to enter the United States, this time turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents and requesting asylum. Agents transported Ms. Doe and her husband to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station. Once there, Ms. Doe notified the agents that she was pregnant, even showing them photos from a recent ultrasound she had undergone while in Tijuana. Notwithstanding, Border Patrol agents separated Ms. Doe from her husband immediately after processing.

The Border Patrol forced Ms. Doe to remove all outer layers of clothing, leaving her upper body clothed in only a sleeveless, thin-strapped blouse. Border Patrol agents gave Ms. Doe a floor mat and silver colored plastic (Mylar) sheet to use as a blanket before placing her in a large holding cell. The toilet and sink to which Ms. Doe had access in her holding cell lacked safeguards for privacy. Ms. Doe was never allowed to bathe while in Border Patrol custody and was instead provided a single moist towelette to clean her entire body every three to four days. She was also only provided a small plastic stick with a sponge tip every three to four days to brush her teeth. The Border Patrol kept the cell lights on 24 hours per day, which made it difficult for Ms. Doe to fall asleep. Ms. Doe felt very cold in the holding cell, unable to warm up with the Mylar sheet, and unable to sleep or rest.

 Despite her multiple requests, Ms. Doe was denied access to her prenatal vitamins and was never given an equivalent supplement while in CBP custody. 

On her seventh day in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe observed agents taking her husband and his belongings out of the holding cell in which he had been detained. She was never given an opportunity to talk to him before he was taken away. She panicked as she saw the agents removing him from the facility, and began banging on the cell door pleading for the agents’ attention. An agent informed Ms. Doe that her husband was being transferred to an ICE detention center and that she would soon be transferred as well. She recalls an agent explaining, to her horror, that many pregnant women are detained in ICE custody and that she could give birth while detained. Ms. Doe felt frozen in that moment, unable to catch her breath, with her hands going numb, and her heart rate accelerating. Ms. Doe soon caught the attention of a medical provider in the station, who explained that she had most likely experienced an anxiety attack.

After nine days detained at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station, Ms. Doe was informed that she would be transferred to an ICE detention center. She was transported to a different location and spent her last night in a different holding cell with three other women. The following day, immigration officials transported her to an office where she was instructed to sign multiple documents she did not understand and told that she had court scheduled for November 18, 2020.

Thereafter, Ms. Doe was transported to a local San Diego hotel where she was greeted by Jewish Family Service San Diego Migrant Family Shelter (“JFS”) staff. JFS staff were the first to explain to Ms. Doe that she was out of immigration custody and would be reunited with her family in the United States after completing a fourteen-day quarantine period in the shelter. Ms. Doe eventually learned that her husband was in ICE custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, where he remains as of the date of this submission.8 Prior to learning his whereabouts, Ms. Doe spent thirteen agonizing days without hearing from him, worrying about his safety and wellbeing.

Ms. Doe is currently five months pregnant. Her separation from the father of her child has caused her stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil. She fears that her husband might not be present for their first child’s birth, and that she will have to go through the experience alone without his support. Worse yet, Ms. Doe’s source of greatest distress is the possibility that her husband will be deported to danger in their country of origin, without ever being be able to see or hold their child. 

Source: ACLU, “Unresolved OIG Complaints” p. 125, March 2020. <https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/appendix-13-unresolved-oig-complaints>

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation, Inappropriate Deportation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

April 15, 2020

A complaint from the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center, based on interviews conducted in San Diego and Tijuana, finds “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.

— 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>.

Footnote from above:

[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.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Family Separation

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

April 15, 2020

A complaint from the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center reports on CBP’s failure to implement a detainee locator system, which complicates efforts to reunify separated families:

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.

— 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>.

Footnote from above:

[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.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

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

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

January 9, 2020

The Kino Border Initiative reports:

Since MPP returns to Nogales began on January 2nd, CBP has already returned particularly vulnerable individuals, including 3 two-year-old children, 2 one-year-old babies and 3 families that are primarily Mam speaking (despite the fact that indigenous language speakers, especially of non-Mexican languages, shouldn’t be subject to MPP).

In the last week, at least two families were separated as a result of MPP, including a man who was returned while his pregnant wife was released in the US, and a woman with children returned whose husband remains detained.

— Kino Border Initiative, “2020 Year in Review: January 7 Update from KBI. Congressional Updates: Children.”

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Denial of Asylum, Family Separation, Return of vulnerable individuals

Accountability Status: Unknown