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Sunday, October 23, 2016

By Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — In April 2011, a Border Patrol agent was ordered to undergo counseling after an immigrant filed a formal complaint charging that the agent had slammed the man’s head against a rock near Tucson, Arizona.

In August of that year, an immigrant who was arrested near El Paso, Texas, accused a Border Patrol agent of stepping on his face and kneeing him in the ribs after he was handcuffed. Internal affairs officers investigated the case, but took no action.

That same month, an unaccompanied minor complained that a Border Patrol agent “hit him on the head with a metal flashlight 20 times, kicked him 5 times, pushed him down a hill.” The case was still under review more than two years later.

The vast majority of complaints lodged against Border Patrol agents operating within 100 miles of the Southwest border result in no disciplinary action or are still pending after many years, according to newly released documents from the agency’s office of internal affairs.

The records suggest little accountability for alleged kicking, beating, sexual abuse and other mistreatment of detainees in custody and other immigrants by members of one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, one that has come under growing fire for its use-of-force policies and lack of transparency.

Only 13 of 809 abuse complaints sent to the agency’s internal affairs unit between January 2009 and January 2012 led to disciplinary action, the records show.

Most of the 13 were ordered to undergo counseling, the records indicate. Forty percent of the total claims were unresolved more than two years after being reported. Some cases remain open after four years.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which runs the Border Patrol, does not routinely notify people about the outcome of their complaints.

The records provide the most detailed public view to date of alleged mistreatment and misbehavior by Border Patrol agents. The Border Patrol has often rebuffed requests from the media and members of Congress for information about its agents’ use of force.

“This is another disturbing report shedding further light onto what we have known for far too long: We need accountability at Border Patrol,” Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday.

The 44-page list was obtained by the American Immigration Council, an advocacy group, through a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with the Los Angeles Times.

The records do not include allegations that were referred to a separate office of civil rights and civil liberties, the Justice Department, the Office of Inspector General or other federal offices empowered to investigate wrongdoing by border agents.

It does not include at least 15 cases in which Border Patrol agents shot and killed people on the border in that three-year period, for example. The agency has declined to say whether any of those agents faced disciplinary action or criminal charges.

The new details come as Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has ordered a review of the immigration enforcement system to see whether changes can be made to ensure that immigrants are treated more humanely.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, who took over Customs and Border Protection in March, said Friday that he would focus new attention on the use of force.

Border agents and officers “strive to treat each of the over 1 million people we come into contact with each day with the respect they deserve,” he said in a statement. “All allegations of misconduct are taken seriously, and if warranted, (are referred) for appropriate investigative and/or disciplinary action to be taken.”

Shawn Moran, the vice president of the Border Patrol agents’ union, defended the agents’ actions and denied that abuse was widespread or officially condoned.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Let me guess. Because these incidents happened to Hispanics attempting to cross over from Mexico, no one cares, but let a cop in Columbus, Ohio attempt to do the same to someone he stops it would make the front pages. The Boarder Patrol is about the only law enforcement agency in the country (outside of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office) without outside scrutiny of their actions, or a public review process of their responses.

    • paulyz

      Many of the border agents ARE Hispanic………..

      • Sand_Cat


  • paulyz

    While there are some cases of mistreatment, there are also many incidents of Illegal trespassers throwing rocks and hurting Border agents. Many risk their lives dealing with violent drug cartels & drug smugglers. We should be more concerned with the large amount of crimes committed by Illegals to Americans, including the rape & murder of many children. Here is just one case.

    Illegal Immigrant Previously Charged With Long List of Crimes Stabs Texas Woman to Death [Read]

    • Independent1

      Sure, illegal immigrants can commit bad crimes but the fact is, native-born Americans commit more of those crimes than illegals do. In fact, illegal aliens commit crimes period at a lower rate than native born Americans. In one article, it actually states that if illegal aliens move into your neighborhood, you’re probably safer than if native born Americans had moved in. Here’s one article from the IPC website that states that illegals commit less crimes than native born Americans:

      Many supporters of Arizona’s harsh new anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, continue to insist that the law is, in part, a crime-fighting measure. However, the latest crime statistics released by the FBI confirm what previous data had already indicated: that Arizona is in the midst of a years-long decline in violent crime that pre-dates SB 1070, despite the growing number of unauthorized immigrants in the state during those same years. Specifically, preliminary data released by the FBI on May 24, when compared to data from previous years, reveals that the numbers of violent crimes as a whole, and murders in particular, have been trending downwards for years in Arizona’s three largest cities: Phoenix, Tucson, and Mesa. Arizona’s falling crime rates, together with a century’s worth of evidence indicating that immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes than the native-born, cast serious doubt on the claims of some SB 1070 supporters that the law is in any way a useful crime-fighting tool.

      And here’s something about the fact that illegals are more a target of kidnappings than they are kidnappers:

      An oft-repeated claim in the debate over Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is that tough immigration-enforcement measures are needed to prevent violent crime from engulfing the state. In particular, supporters of SB 1070 often cite kidnappings in the state’s capital, Phoenix, as a reason to crack down on unauthorized immigrants. Arizona politicians such as U.S. Senator John McCain and State Senator Russell Pearce, for instance, have justified their calls for more immigration enforcement by claiming that Phoenix is the “the number two kidnapping capital of the world” after Mexico City. Not only is this claim false, but it ignores two inconvenient facts. First of all, the victims of most kidnappings in Phoenix are unauthorized immigrants. Second, crime rates in Arizona have been falling for years. Cracking down on the unauthorized immigrants upon whom so many kidnappers prey is a classic case of blaming the victim. Moreover, this blame-the-victim posture diverts attention from the fact that the broken U.S. immigration system has created a lucrative market for kidnappers.

      • paulyz

        You just put out statements that are either baseless, or misrepresent the facts. The MSM does this all the time because most people read the headlines without really understanding the real story. That is propaganda. Here are several stories of the facts about crime by Illegal aliens. And even IF they were lower, why do we need more crime in this Country than we have now?

        AND…. even the Open Borders Lobby admit that there are high rates of crime by Illegal “immigrants”.

        • Independent1

          Sorry Pauly but it’s not true. You apparently love to read right-wing biased publications, or articles published in the media by right-wing biased authors.

          Like with many things, you obviously have zero common sense. The number of hispanics and illegal immigrants has climbed steadily in the U.S. over the past 30 years, while overall crime in the U.S. has dropped significantly in many areas. This clearly would not be true if those articles you’re reading are true. There’s no way that immigrants could be committing high levels of crimes, while their percent of the population continues to climb while at the same time overall crime is dropping!!

          Just use some common sense!!!!

        • Independent1

          And how about this comment from studies even about crime in big cities: Cities with large immigrant populations showed larger reductions in property and violent crime than cities without large immigrant populations

  • Michael MacPherson

    The justice system in this country is extremely racists, it is also extremely oriented in favor of the rich, the less you are able to fight back from false arrest, police abuse and discrimination, the more vulnerable you are to these abuses and the less likely your complaints will be investigated.

    The way a code of conduct works is, that code of conduct has to be intact no matter what circumstances it faces. The police have a code of conduct to protect the innocent and uphold the law. When that code of conduct breaks down and the police are not held accountable for their actions, then there is no code of conduct and you have a police state. If the police treat those who are the poorest and most vulnerable the same as they would treat the richest and most protected, shows how strong their code of conduct is.

    Using the excuse that some people throw rocks or yell obscenities at police so they have a right to abuse all of these people and not just the one’s throwing rocks is stupid, racist, and childish. If the police are allowed to go against their code of conduct whenever they get mistreated, then the code of conduct breaks down and there will be abuse to those who do not deserve it.

    For all you so call religious people who claim to worship God, a good measuring stick to use to tell if you are a hypocrite, is if you do not fallow the word of God, such as ‘the way you treat the least of us, is the way you treat me’.

  • Sand_Cat

    How often are any law-enforcement personnel punished in response to complaints?