A complaint filed in May with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demands investigations of alleged abuse by officials along the U.S.-Mexico border. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) references eleven cases involving allegations that agents of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) abused individuals seeking to enter the United States at various points of entry (POE’s), with acts of abuse ranging from unwarranted searches and detention to outright assault.
Most of the individuals in the reported cases are citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. The complaint, which is an informal request rather than a lawsuit, requests investigations of the eleven individual cases and general investigations into the training and conduct of CBP officers. This issue affects more than just undocumented immigrants, as the alleged conduct includes people with legal immigration status nevertheless subjected to alleged abuse at the border.
The complaint, dated May 9, 2012, is addressed to DHS’ Acting Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and its Acting Inspector General. CBP is responsible for customs inspection at POE’s around the country, including airports and official border crossings. It also operates the Border Patrol, which is responsible for apprehending people trying to enter the U.S. without going through inspection at a POE. The ACLU’s complaint focuses on alleged incidents at the twenty-four border POE’s on the U.S.-Mexico border.
In one case described by the ACLU, a Chilean businessman, who has made frequent trips to the U.S., was in the country with a valid visitor’s visa. He went to Mexico, leaving the U.S. in Calexico, California and surrendering his I-94 to a CBP officer. The following day, he sought to return to the U.S. through the same POE, offering his visa and requesting a new I-94. He alleges that an officer in the secondary inspection area brought in a canine unit that did not find anything suspicious, but then the officer continued searching, eventually damaging the man’s car in the course of searching it. The officer allegedly handcuffed the man when he asked to speak to a supervisor and took him to a “secure facility.” The man reportedly remained cuffed to a bench for over two hours, even after the officer who had taken his I-94 the previous day confirmed his identity. The original officer, prior to releasing him to return to Mexico, allegedly told him “this is my country” and made various other abusive statements to him. The man was finally able to return to the U.S. the next day through a POE in Tijuana.
The various allegations against CBP, if true, should be troubling to everyone, not just immigrants. Most of the individuals in the reported cases have legal status in the U.S., including some natural-born citizens. Treatment like that described in the complaint, inflicted on people with clearly valid passports or visas, seriously threatens the rule of law in the U.S. immigration system.
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Complaint and request for investigation of abuse of power, excessive force, coercion, and unlawful confiscation of property by Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border (PDF), American Civil Liberties Union, May 9, 2012 (source)More Blog Posts
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Photo credit: ‘Border Mexico USA’ by Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Hyde, upload by user: Wikifreund, Germany (http://www.ngb.army.mil) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.