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Border Authorities' Abuse of Migrants Not Uncommon, According to Yet Another Study

Border Authorities' Abuse of Migrants Not Uncommon, According to Yet Another Study
Jim Greenhill via Flickr

A study found that abuse of migrants by border authorities in this country is a "systemic problem."

Or maybe we should say, another study came to that conclusion.

See also:
-Cloaked Brutality: The Feds Bury Border Patrol Abuses of Immigrants

The Immigration Policy Center study, which includes researchers from the University of Arizona and George Washington University, interviewed more than 1,000 randomly selected, recently repatriated migrants in six Mexican cities over the last three years.

"Of respondents, 11% reported physical abuse and 23% reported verbal abuse," the report states. As we mentioned, this isn't a new revelation:

A 2011 report by No More Deaths found that 10% of deportees reported experiencing physical violence by U.S. authorities. An academic study with Salvadoran deportees between 1999 and 2000 found a slightly higher physical abuse rate at about 16%. A separate sample collected by the same scholars in 2002 among 300 Salvadoran deportees found similar results, with 20% reporting at least one or more forms of physical abuse during the apprehension process, and 11% during detention. These consistent results across multiple studies suggest that abuse of migrants while in U.S. custody is a systematic problem relating to an ongoing institutional culture rather than simply a consequence of a few people who are acting inappropriately.

Our colleague Monica Alonzo reported on such abuses in her 2010 cover story, "Cloaked Brutality."

This new report also details verbal mistreatment of migrants:

Nearly 40% of the 252 people who reported verbal abuse mentioned that they were the target of direct insults. These insults consisted of nationalistic or racist slurs, insults related to crossing the border without authorization, aspersions against immigrants, false accusations, or other general insults. Comments regarding a migrant's gender or presumed sexual orientation were also mentioned. Some respondents also indicated that they were made fun of by agents or were treated as a source of amusement. Twenty-six percent indicated they were threatened, including with physical harm or additional legal sanctions, while 11% explicitly mentioned that they had legitimate requests denied.

Specific insults cited in the report, from the interviews with the migrants, include "fucking wetback," "dirty little Mexican woman, let's see if you cross again after this!" and "Mexican pieces of shit."

In most cases, the agency blamed for both physical and verbal mistreatment is the Border Patrol, which was implicated about 70 percent of the time, while ICE and local law enforcement combined for about a quarter of those complaints, and other agencies such as US Marshals or private prison guards made up the rest.

The study (which can be found here) breaks down the allegations into more specific categories.

"When taken in the context of prior studies, it appears that the abuse of migrants while in U.S. custody is a systemic problem and points to an organizational subculture stemming from a lack of transparency and accountability in U.S. Customs and Border Protection," the study says. "These patterns of abuse have brought scrutiny to the Border Patrol's use-of-force policies and created tension in border communities.Future research should examine the longer-term social and psychological consequences of these types of abuse for migrants and their loved ones."

This study is actually part of a three-part series from the Immigration Policy Center, and the second part, "Possessions Taken and Not Returned," is also available online.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


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