A new report from Tucson-based No More Deaths (NMD) finds that U.S. Border Patrol agents regularly engage in unsafe and unsanitary detention practices, physically abuse detainees and refuse medical attention to those who need it, among other violations of human rights. The group charges that these abuses amount to a “culture of cruelty” within the Border Patrol, now part of the largest federal law enforcement body in the United States.
Nearly 13,000 former detainees were interviewed for the report, named ‘A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody.’ One interview involved a 54-year-old man who had lived in Los Angeles for 35 years. Border Patrol detained him in October 2010, as he tried to return home after visiting his ailing mother in Mexico. He suffered a back injury when the Border Patrol vehicle transporting him flipped over. After hospital treatment, he was deported and then died in Nogales, Sonora after his medication ran out.
Once detained, migrants are not protected from sexual abuse as the Federal government is refusing to extend the protection of the Prison rape Elimination Act to immigration and asylum detainees.
They also face being transferred, often repeatedly, to remote detention centers by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a Human Rights Watch report from June which analyzed 12 years of data.
Says Danielle Alvarado, a No More Deaths volunteer and co-author of the report:
“What we’ve found is clearly not the result of a few ‘bad apples’. We continue to hear the same stories from thousands of people, released from different Border Patrol stations, year after year. They are alarmingly consistent.”
According to the interviews, individuals suffering severe dehydration are routinely deprived of water, people with life-threatening medical conditions are denied treatment, children and adults are beaten during apprehensions and in custody and many are crammed into cells and subjected to extreme temperatures, deprived of sleep and subject to humiliation and other forms of psychological abuse. Alvarado suggests that many of the practices documented in the report constitute torture under international law.
Pictured are life-saving resources such as water and cans of beans destroyed which No More Deaths volunteers find in the desert. Volunteers have witnessed, documented, and videotaped Border Patrol Agents destroying these invaluable resources.
Border Patrol agents often use a tactic of rushing at people on horseback or flying low in helicopters (“dusting”) to scatter migrants encountered in the desert, the report says.
This terrorizing tactic causes injuries to migrants attempting to get out of harm’s way. Those who aren’t apprehended are often left behind in the desert.
Conditions in Border Patrol custody have not changed much since 2008, the volunteers say, when NMD published its first report documenting abuses of detainees. Says Alvarado:
“Absolutely no one is taking responsibility for the patterns of abuse that persist. We have filed dozens of complaints and not one has produced any change. This is just one more way the Obama administration’s flawed approach to enforcement has undermined his credibility with immigrant communities. It is an affront to our collective sense of justice, fairness, and equality.”
The group is urging an immediate end to abusive practices, report and transparent, independent, and accountable oversight of the U.S. Border Patrol – including an overhaul of the complaint investigation process.
Picture No More deaths