I started writing this post a few years ago after the ACLU of Arizona first released it’s Record of Abuse investigative report regarding U.S. Border Patrol interior enforcement operations in the Tucson and Yuma sectors. I let the article get away from me at the time but recent events have brought me back to it.
Record of Abuse: Lawlessness and Impunity in Border Patrol’s Interior Enforcement Operations is based upon incomplete documentation the ACLU was able to gather through an ongoing FOIA lawsuit against U.S. Customs & Border Protection that was initially filed in 2014. The Border Patrol, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, has always resisted transparency and this case was no different. After filing an initial FOIA request followed by an appeal for constructive denial, the ACLU was forced to file the lawsuit in order to get a response. The Border Patrol initially released some responsive documentation to the ACLU’s FOIA request but has been withholding the bulk of it despite a federal judge who mocked the agency’s ridiculous excuses for failing to comply in May of last year.
Despite the agency’s clear disdain for public transparency & accountability, the ACLU was able to put together enough information from its own research, along with documentation released through the lawsuit, to create the Record of Abuse report referenced above.
While investigating, one of the first things the ACLU discovered was not only that the Border Patrol was shy about releasing information to the public but also to the United States Congress:
“though the complaint records obtained by the ACLU to date are incomplete and taken from just two of Border Patrol’s twenty sectors, they significantly outnumber the civil rights complaints DHS and CBP disclosed to Congress during the same period. For example, from Fiscal Year 2012 through Fiscal Year 2013, DHS oversight agencies reported just three complaints involving alleged Fourth Amendment violations, nationwide. Yet government records produced to the ACLU reveal that at least 81 such complaints originated in Tucson and Yuma Sectors alone during the same period (with at least 38 more through just part of FY 2014”
Why, after all, should the U.S Border Patrol allow Congress to hold it accountable when the Border Patrol doesn’t even hold it’s own agents accountable:
“These documents also confirm CBP’s persistent unwillingness to hold agents accountable: substantive, independent investigations into civil rights violations are rare, lacking in transparency, and almost never result in disciplinary consequences of any kind. The records produced to the ACLU contain numerous reports of abuse and corruption, but only one example of disciplinary action: one agent, suspended for one day, for an unlawful vehicle stop. (In that case, the complainant was alleged to be a government employee and the son of a Border Patrol agent.)”
“The records further demonstrate the ways in which CBP’s existing oversight mechanisms—including basic data collection—fall well short of accepted best practices and are inadequate to detect and deter rights violations by agents. Border Patrol fails to record any stops that do not lead to an arrest, even when the stop results in a lengthy detention, search, and/or property damage. The agency also does not document false alerts by service canines, which frequently result in prolonged searches and seizures of innocent travelers. As a result, it is impossible for Border Patrol to track or respond to recurring incidents involving “problem agents” or chronically inaccurate service canines.”
“Finally, CBP’s own data calls into question the agency’s claims that interior checkpoint operations are an efficient and effective enforcement strategy. For example, CBP apprehension statistics show that for 2013, Tucson Sector checkpoint apprehensions accounted for only 0.67 percent of the sector’s total apprehensions. In calendar year 2013, nine out of 23 Tucson Sector checkpoints produced zero arrests of “deportable subjects.” The same year, Yuma Sector checkpoint arrests of U.S. citizens exceeded those of non-citizens by a factor of nearly eight (and in 2011, by a factor of 11). One checkpoint in Yuma Sector, located 75 miles from the border, reported only one non-citizen apprehension in three years, while producing multiple civil rights complaints during the same period. Despite the Supreme Court’s prohibition on general “crime control” checkpoints, these records indicate that Border Patrol checkpoint activities are more often directed at drug busts than at immigration enforcement. Moreover, though CBP did not account for the financial costs of its interior operations, its records suggest the human costs far outweigh the limited enforcement gains.”
Though Border Patrol says these operations are “safe, efficient, and cost-effective,” the agency’s own records undermine those claims, revealing a systemic lack of oversight and accountability for agents who violate border residents’ most basic civil and constitutional rights on a dramatic scale. These documents show that Border Patrol’s extra-constitutional police practices often amount to a de facto policy of “stop and frisk” for border residents
and documentation that has been released to the ACLU via the FOIA lawsuit is available as follows:
- August 8, 2014 document production
- August 13, 2014 document production
- September 24, 2014 document production
- October 10, 2014 document production
- December 15, 2014 document production
- December 19, 2014 document production
- January 6, 2015 document production
- February 20, 2015 document production
- March 12, 2015 document production
- March 17, 2015 document production
- April 3, 2015 document production
- April 14, 2015 document production
- May 21, 2015 document production