Monday, September 26, 2011

Widespread Abuse of Detainees by Border Patrol

From No More Deaths:

Border patrol 
Report by Arizona group suggests widespread abuse of detainees in U.S. Border Patrol custody

A new report from Tucson-based No More Deaths (NMD) finds that U.S. Border Patrol agents regularly engage in unsafe and unsanitary detention practices; physically abuse detainees; and refuse medical attention to those who need it, among other violations of human rights.  The group charges that these abuses amount to a “culture of cruelty” within the Border Patrol, now part of the largest federal law enforcement body in the United States.

No More Deaths and partner organizations interviewed nearly 13,000 former detainees to compile the report, named A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody and released on September 21.  One interview involved a 54-year-old man who had lived in Los Angeles for 35 years. Border Patrol detained him in October 2010, as he tried to return home after visiting his ailing mother in Mexico.  He suffered a back injury when the Border Patrol vehicle transporting him flipped over. After hospital treatment, he was deported and then died in Nogales, Sonora after his medication ran out.

Says Danielle Alvarado, a No More Deaths volunteer and co-author of the report: “What we’ve found is clearly not the result of a few ‘bad apples’.  We continue to hear the same stories from thousands of people, released from different Border Patrol stations, year after year. They are alarmingly consistent.”

According to the interviews, individuals suffering severe dehydration are routinely deprived of water; people with life-threatening medical conditions are denied treatment; children and adults are beaten during apprehensions and in custody; many are crammed into cells and subjected to extreme temperatures, deprived of sleep and subject to humiliation and other forms of psychological abuse. Alvarado suggests that many of the practices documented in the report constitute torture under international law.

Conditions in Border Patrol custody have not changed much since 2008, the volunteers say, when NMD published its first report documenting abuses of detainees. Says Alvarado: “Absolutely no one is taking responsibility for the patterns of abuse that persist. We have filed dozens of complaints and not one has produced any change. This is just one more way the Obama administration’s flawed approach to enforcement has undermined his credibility with immigrant communities. It is an affront to our collective sense of justice, fairness, and equality.”

The group is urging an immediate end to abusive practices, report and transparent, independent, and accountable oversight of the U.S. Border Patrol – including an overhaul of the complaint investigation process.

Last Wednesday afternoon community leaders gathered outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Tucson Sector headquarters to demand transparency and accountability from the agency. Press events were held on Wednesday by community organizations in Tucson, El Paso, Seattle, Detroit, Madison and Boston, to draw attention to the report and its findings.

The new report is available online at


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