4 Things You Should Know About Border Patrol Abuses

Posted on April 4, 2016 by The United We Dream Policy and Advocacy Team

Activist rally for the end of LGBTQ Immigrant Detention.
An organizer with the Minority Affairs Council in McAllen stands in front of a Customs and Border Protection office with a shirt that read: “My Family is Trapped”. © Jassiel Perez | United We Dream
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In late March, the National Border Patrol Council, the union of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency employees, issued an endorsement of Donald Trump for President. While the announcement is disturbing, it is also not shocking for the over 12 million people in living along the U.S. – Mexico border who have seen the shocking ways in which CBP operates. In fact, CBP’s outlaw tactics make them a key culprit in the larger discussion around police brutality happening in communities nationwide.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest law enforcement agency in the country with over 62,000 employees and a yearly budget of more than $13 billion. The agency also has the power to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. “external boundary,” giving its officers extensive authority among border communities across the country.

Here are some things you should know about what’s happening with CBP and why immigrant communities are fighting back.

1. Dozens of people people have died at the hands of CBP officers

Since January 2010, at least 46 people have died as the result of an encounter with CBP officers. This does not include the number of people who have been brutalized, in some cases with life altering injuries. The victims include unarmed minors shot in the back and head, people killed while riding in moving vehicles, and a Mexican citizen who died after being beaten and shot with a taser by CBP agents.

This last week, the family of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, who was murdered by CBP officers in 2010, along with the Southern Border Communities Coalition and other leaders, made an historic petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanding accountability for human rights violations by CBP.

2. No one at CBP is ever held accountable for abuses

CBP as a government agency has existed in multiple names and iterations for over 90 years. During this time, U.S. prosecutors have failed to file criminal charges and convict even a single CBP officer for excessive use of force or abuse against border residents. CBP as an agency has also taken no known disciplinary action against officers involved in deaths and in fact, many of these officers are still employed by the agency. Additionally, CBP has also resisted any efforts to change its practices including rejecting efforts to mandate body cameras on officers.

3. Immigration checkpoints keep communities trapped

Even though the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect everyone from random and arbitrary stops and searches, these basic constitutional principles do not fully apply at our borders. Currently, CBP has the authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. “external boundary.” In this 100-mile zone, CBP officers have certain extra-Constitutional powers and can set up immigration checkpoints.

These checkpoints leave immigrant communities trapped and unable to travel freely. This problem became clear after Texas passed its anti-abortion law, HB 2, that shut down all but one clinic offering abortion services south of San Antonio, Texas. Studies show that these restrictions combined with immigration checkpoints have led an increased number of Texas residents to undergo dangerous self-induced abortion because they cannot travel to another clinic in the state. The checkpoints also separate families that are in the same country, with people unable to travel for fear of being detained.

4. CBP continues to receive bloated budgets and staff

Despite all of these problems, the government continues to shovel more officers and money to CBP. By 2013, there were over 20,000 officers on the U.S. – Mexico border more than double the number in 2004. In government testimony, even the head of CBP said that the agency cannot keep track of the activity of its officers, leading to the horrible abuses documented in the last couple of years. Additionally, in announcing his proposed budget for 2017, President Obama requested an additional $720 million for CBP on top of the current budget of $13.2 billion sent the agency every single year.

“Secure the border” is a political line that politicians of both parties continue to say when, in fact, the border is so full of agents and expensive equipment that it resembles a militarized war zone. It’s time for CBP to be held accountable for as a law enforcement agency. Border communities cannot continue to be held in the grip of an agency that reigns with impunity.

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