Tucson Border Patrol Sector Earns Most Complaints of Abuse, but Punishment Is Rare

Complaints of abuse against Border Patrol agents along the southern border are rarely met with action, according to a report from the American Immigration Council.

The organization obtained public records from Customs and Border Protection to gain information about the complaints of abuse. The group obtained 809 complaints filed against Border Patrol agents, and found that a grand total of 13 received some sort of punishment.

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

The majority of cases, 472 of them, resulted in no action being taken, while 342 were still pending investigation.

That means about 97 percent of the cases that were investigated resulted in no action being taken.

". . . [G]iven that several other studies have found strong evidence of systemic abuse at the hands of Border Patrol agents, it is very likely that at least some of these cases did indeed have merit," the report states. "On average, CBP took 122 days to arrive at a decision when one was made. Moreover, of the 809 complaints, 324 (40 percent) were still 'pending investigation' when the complaint data were provided to the Immigration Council. This amounts to powerful evidence of a serious lack of accountability and transparency within CBP."

In recent years, two separate groups have published reports, based on surveys of migrants who have had run-ins with Border Patrol -- one report found 10 percent of the migrants reporting physical abuse, and the other report found 11 percent reporting physical abuse.

That leads the American Immigration Council to believe that plenty of these cases aren't resulting in formal complaints against Border Patrol agents, although based on the records provided to them, the group alleges Customs and Border Protection doesn't really take the process seriously anyway.

The report also mentions that the Tucson sector of the southern border has the most complaints, by far. Since some sectors have more agents than others, the group found out the number of complaints per 1,000 agents in each sector -- Tucson still had the most complaints.

Here are three sample complaints from Tucson published by the American Immigration Council:

  • "BPA [Border Patrol Agent] allegedly hit a UDA's [Undocumented Alien's] head against a rock causing a hematoma." (Result: Counseling)
  • "A minor alleged he was physically forced by a BPA to sign a document." (Result: No Action Taken)."
  • "BPAs allegedly denied a UDA water; touched/treated female UDAs inappropriately." (Result: Pending Investigation)

Meanwhile, in a completely separate investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union has been looking into cases of "roving patrols" by Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona.

The ACLU filed a complaint with Homeland Security back in 2012, on behalf of 11 people who claimed various abuses at the actual ports of entry at the southern border.

The ACLU never received a substantive response to that complaint, leading them to believe, "DHS oversight agencies have not kept pace with Border Patrol's rapid growth and are ill-equipped to provide transparent and effective agency oversight and accountability for rights violations by agents."

The American Immigration Council has come to a similar conclusion in its report on the Border Patrol complaints.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley