Organizational Culture Events in “El Paso”

February 15, 2021

To escape the lingering, devastating effects of two hurricanes and the reach of organized crime, Pedro Gomez fled Guatemala in January and headed north, looking for hope.

Thousands of miles south, Jhon Jairo Ushca Alcoser, too, left his country, Ecuador, fleeing political unrest and the economic fallout of a global pandemic that’s ravaged his nation.

For both men, it seemed as if nothing would stand in the way of their cherished dream – certainly not deserts, rivers, unscrupulous smugglers, or the infamous wall they had heard so much about. But then that same wall nearly crippled them. And fhs the U.S. Border Patrol — then “dumped us in Mexico like garbage, a piece of trash,” said Pedro Gomez, 37. They say agents who discovered them injured sent them back across the border rather than providing them medical care on American soil.

It’s not clear why these injured migrants were deported to Mexico, even after both said they told agents they couldn’t walk.

“I couldn’t even get up, so I crawled inside the migra vehicle,” said Gomez, after falling off the wall in late January. At one point, he says he was told he was going to be taken to a U.S. hospital, but instead was dropped off at the border crossing nearly 90 miles from where he fell off the wall near El Paso. His ankles are broken and he cannot walk.

Ushca Alcoser said he told Border Patrol agents he couldn’t move and was “screaming in excruciating pain” after he fell backwards off of a 30-foot section of the wall newly installed during the Trump administration as Border Patrol agents stood in front of him in early February.

But “they said ‘stand up, stand up.’ I don’t know where I found the strength.” He says he was sent back to Mexico, dragging his feet as another migrant held him up. X-Rays later revealed broken tendons and a fractured back and pelvis, Sosa said.

The two men asked their names be used so their accounts of events can be verified.

Separately, a Border Patrol spokesman said the agency does not track injuries related to the wall.

Source: The Dallas Morning, “Injured Migrants Say Border Patrol Sent Them Back to Mexico After They Fell Off Trump’s Wall” February 2021. <https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2021/02/14/injured-migrants-say-border-patrol-sent-them-back-to-mexico-after-they-fell-off-trumps-wall/>.

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Medical Care

Accountability Status:

December 16, 2020

“A man was killed during a car chase in which he allegedly shot at Border Patrol agents, who returned fire. While initially CBP reported that the man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, later reports indicate that it is unclear whether the man died as a result of the exchange of fire, or from a self-inflicted wound.” 

Benjamin Marley Manley
Age: 36
Nationality: American
Cause of Death: Fatal shooting (Use of force)
Incident Date: December 16, 2020
Incident Location: Truth and Consequences, NM

Source: Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), “Fatal Encounters with CBP Since 2010,” <https://www.southernborder.org/deaths_by_border_patrol>

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter, Use of Force, Vehicle Pursuit

Accountability Status:

July 1, 2020

Two eyewitness accounts of the deadly car crash in Downtown El Paso conflict with what law enforcement officials have said about the events prior to the accident that killed seven and left three with serious injuries.

Border Patrol officials had said agents initially pursued a vehicle believed to be transporting undocumented immigrants, but broke off the chase after it reached dangerously high speeds heading into Downtown El Paso. They said the driver who evaded agents bears sole responsibility for the deaths.

Wilmer Gomez Gomez of Guatemala was one of 10 people in the vehicle that violently struck a trailer on Paisano Avenue at about 2:15 a.m. on June 25. Twenty-five-year-old Gomez, who survived the crash, said he remembers being pursued by approximately seven Border Patrol vehicles. “They were chasing us, they never stopped chasing us,” Gomez said.

In an interview with El Paso Matters, Gomez recounted that when he got into the car, a Border Patrol vehicle was nearby, blocking the gray Chevrolet Cruze. Gomez said that the Border Patrol vehicle moved out of the way, letting the Cruze pass, before it and other Border Patrol vehicles began chasing them. Gomez said he and a group of five others were picked up by the car; Border Patrol officials said three undocumented immigrants were in the vehicle, but police on Wednesday said five of the people in the vehicle were Guatemalans.

Source: El Paso Matters, “Witnesses say Border Patrol chased car moments before it crashed, killing 7”, July 2020. <https://elpasomatters.org/2020/07/01/witnesses-say-border-patrol-chased-car-moments-before-it-crashed-killing-7/>

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter

Accountability Status: No steps taken

June 25, 2020

The following cases and patterns of persistent toxic behavior are from a July 2020 complaint about Border Patrol’s Vehicle Pursuit Policy and the Deadly Pursuit and Crash on June 25, 2020 in El Paso filed by the ACLU to the CRCL and DHS OIG.

“On June 25, 2020, another Border Patrol vehicle chase led to a crash that killed  seven people in the same location in El Paso, TX. Gustavo Cervantes, 18, of El  Paso; Yadira Barrera, 16, of El Paso; Liliana Jimenez, 16, of El Paso; Jorge  Manuel Acosta, 19, of El Paso; Oscar Miguel Garcia- Bran, 21, of Guatemala;  Elvira Tot-Chiroy, 19, of Guatemala; and Santos Porfirio-Garcia, 32, of Guatemala were reported deceased by either the El Paso Police or their family  members. Wilmer Gomez of Guatemala was one of three survivors in the vehicle  and says he remembers being chased by approximately seven Border Patrol  vehicles. Other witnesses also recount that Border Patrol vehicles were speeding  in pursuit when the crash occurred.”

“Border Patrol engages in dangerous vehicle pursuit cases that result in an  increase number of deaths and injuries, including a deadly crash that killed seven in El Paso in 2020. Border Patrol refuses to release their vehicle pursuit policy, thereby  making it impossible to review its compliance with relevant guidelines, legal  protections, or police best practices. The high number of injuries and deaths resulting  from Border Patrol’s actions suggest either that the policy fails to protect the safety  and lives of pursuit subjects or that agents are consistently acting outside the bounds of agency policy.”

“From 2015 to 2018 alone, at least 250 people were injured and 22 were killed in a  vehicle crash due to a vehicle pursuit by Border Patrol. The number of people injured in Border Patrol pursuit crashes increased by 42  percent under the Trump administration.” 

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): Abuse of minor, Fatal Encounter, Use of Force, Weak Oversight

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

June 25, 2020

“A pickup truck crashed after a high speed chase involving Border Patrol. Gustavo Cervantes was the driver of the pickup and died in the crash. Oscar Miguel Garcia-Bran, Elvira Tot-Chiroy, Liliana Jimenez, Liliana Jimenez, Santos Porfirio-Garcia were the 7 passengers who died in the crash.”

Gustavo Cervantes
Age: 18
Nationality: American
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Oscar Miguel Garcia-Bran
Age: 21
Nationality: Guatemalan
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Elvira Tot-Chiroy
Age: 19
Nationality: Guatemalan
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Liliana Jimenez
Age: 16
Nationality: American
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Santos Porfirio-Garcia
Age: 32
Nationality: Guatemalan
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Name Withheld 
Age: 19
Nationality: U.S.
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Santos Porfirio-Garcia
Age: 32
Nationality: Guatemalan
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Name Withheld 
Age: 19
Nationality: U.S.
Cause of Death: Car chase (Vehicle collision) 
Incident Date: June 25, 2020
Incident Location: El Paso, Texas

Source: Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), “Fatal Encounters with CBP Since 2010,” <https://www.southernborder.org/deaths_by_border_patrol>

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Fatal Encounter, Vehicle Pursuit, Weak Oversight

Accountability Status:

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

January 29, 2020

On January 29, an Ecuadorian man was killed in a car crash near downtown El Paso, Texas, only yards from the U.S.-Mexico border. An Ecuadorian woman was gravely hurt and weeks later is just emerging from a coma. She’s missing part of her skull and half of her body appears to be paralyzed. Stuck in a hospital thousands of miles from her kin, she has had few visitors, but one has been a Border Patrol agent who feels grief-stricken by the accident and believes the Border Patrol played a major role in causing it. The agent recently had an emotional meeting with a family member of the severely injured woman and offered to testify if the family brings a lawsuit.

Police reports say the crash was caused by a drunk driver who picked up the Ecuadorians after they crossed into the U.S. illegally. The driver is said to have been a smuggler who was speeding to evade the Border Patrol, and crashed because he was driving too fast. But the agent says that the chase was improper. It occurred near downtown El Paso on West Paisano Drive, on a section of road so prone to crashes that local law enforcement officers call it a “deadly curve.”

A police report states that the car had rounded a curve on Paisano — the “deadly curve” — at high speed, and the vehicle jumped a median, collided with a tree and a light post, and rolled over. The driver, Daniel Humberto Castillo, fled but was quickly caught. Inside the wreck were Castillo’s passengers, all Ecuadorians. One, 30-year-old Edwin Leonardo Solis, died at the scene. Of the survivors, Jessica Alexandra Chirau, 27, sustained bruises and sprains. Juan Carlos Chirau, 36, had several fractured vertebrae. Marcela Naomi Palacios, 28, sustained the worst injuries. In addition to fractures of her elbow, spine, and clavicle, she had a lacerated spleen, air and fluid in her lungs, a brain bleed, and brain swelling. She was near death and in a coma. She underwent surgeries at a local hospital and was placed in intensive care. She remains at the hospital.

Source: The Intercept, “BORDER PATROL AGENT SPEAKS OUT ABOUT A HIGH-SPEED CHASE THAT ENDED IN AN IMMIGRANT’S DEATH” January 2020. <https://theintercept.com/2020/02/28/border-patrol-el-paso-texas-car-chase/>

Sector(s): El Paso

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Use of Force

Accountability Status: No further action