US border officials engage in “shocking abuses” against asylum seekers, report says | American immigration
Shocking cases of sexual and physical abuse of asylum seekers at the southern U.S. border by federal agents uncovered by Human Rights Watch, after years-long battle to fight Department of Security information domestic law under freedom of information laws.
A supply of redacted documents handed over to the human rights group after six years of legal battles reveals more than 160 cases of misconduct and abuse by prominent government agencies, including customs and border protection (CBP ) and the US border patrol. Newspapers record events between 2016 and 2021 that range from the sexual assault of children to forced hunger, threats of rape and brutal detention conditions.
Some of the incidents involve suspected criminal activity by federal agents.
Human Rights Watch said the documents “paint a picture of DHS as an agency that appears to have normalized shocking abuses at the US border. The United States should take urgent and sustained action to end such abuses ”.
Recently released documents record a case of suspected child sexual abuse reported by a supervisor at the San Francisco asylum office. An asylum officer interviewed “a young child who was sexually assaulted by someone we believe to be a CBP officer or border patrol officer … The girl was forced to undress and inappropriately touched by a guard dressed in green ”.
The border patrol uniform is green.
Another report recounts an incident in 2018 when a male asylum seeker was detained and taken to a detention center in San Ysidro, California. An officer told the man that “if he gave him sex he would be released”, and when the inmate refused “the officer insulted him in English and said he would be locked up as a of punishment ”.
Federal agents operating along the Mexican border have long been accused of misconduct and mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States. Conditions in detention centers can be harsh and detainees have often complained of being kept so cold that detention enclosures are described as “hieleras” or coolers.
A Honduran asylum seeker reported the conditions at the McAllen facility in 2019: “I was there for 10 days sitting, couldn’t move because there were 67 of us in that cell. We said we needed toilet paper and water and… we pointed out the animals, the scorpions inside. There were scorpions, ants, ticks, fleas and they were telling us everything was fine, it was because of our own stench to be there 45 days.
Concerns over inappropriate behavior by border officials re-hit international headlines in September when border patrol officers on horseback carrying what looked like whips were photographed seizing Haitian migrants.
Human Rights Watch documents indicate many ways in which asylum seekers appear to have had their due process rights violated. One of the documents released as part of the Freedom of Information action appears to relate to a federal investigation into due process violations by CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The investigation revealed 27 possible cases where asylum seekers were prevented from filing complaints or forced to sign papers they could not understand.
A Honduran man seeking asylum was told by a border patrol agent that unless he signed papers canceling his request, “he was going to be sent to a prison where they were going to rape him”.