(MintPress) – A set of lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last week for a bevy of charges, including “excessive use of force, unlawful detention and coercive techniques.” Many of the alleged abuses have been filed by citizens or documented workers who were mistakenly detained or deported, despite having legal permission […]
(MintPress) – A set of lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last week for a bevy of charges, including “excessive use of force, unlawful detention and coercive techniques.”
Many of the alleged abuses have been filed by citizens or documented workers who were mistakenly detained or deported, despite having legal permission to be in the United States. The legal actions filed last Tuesday include several lawsuits in federal district courts and administrative complaints filed directly with the Department of Homeland Security, of which CBP is a part.
“I don’t think these are isolated cases,” said Melissa Crow of the American Immigration Council (AIC). “The spectrum of cases we’re presenting exemplifies the culture of impunity that has taken hold at CBP.”
If found guilty, the charges against CBP would implicate agents in repeated misconduct. In one case Emily Ruiz, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen, was wrongfully deported and mistreated while detained March 2011.
After a visit to her parents’ native Guatemala with her grandfather, Ruiz was detained by CBP agents at Dulles Airport for 20 hours. Throughout “bouts of hysterical and prolonged crying,” agents refused to let the child speak to her parents for 14 hours, forcing Ruiz to remain in a cold room with her grandfather.
The room had no bed, blanket or pillow, and Ruiz was only given a cookie and a soda throughout her detention. Despite being a legal U.S. citizen, Ruiz was inexplicably deported to Guatemala where she suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Ruiz was later allowed to return to the United States, where she was reunited with her parents in New York.
Allegations of CBP abuse have increased commensurate with the rapid growth of the department, increasing from 4,000 agents in 1993 to more than 21,000 in 2012. Although the numbers of undocumented immigrants have decreased following the economic recession in 2008, millions remain in the United States caught in an uncertain legal limbo, living in fear of abuse, detention or deportation.
On average, authorities CBP agents detain more than 32,000 individuals every day, more than 400,000 annually. The majority of those detained are in the United States are undocumented and many are later deported. Since taking office in 2008, President Obama has overseen the deportation of 1.5 million people, outpacing deportations under his predecessor George W. Bush.
Along the U.S.-Mexico border, agents have killed several Mexican nationals in recent years. An autopsy report released last month implicates U.S. border patrol in the killing of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 16-year-old Mexican boy.
Rodriguez’s October 2012 death was shrouded in mystery until the release of forensic findings showing the youth succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds in Mexican territory. The Mexican government lodged formal complaints with U.S. authorities, claiming that border patrol agents used excessive force in the killing.
U.S authorities contested this account, claiming that an unnamed border patrol agent fired at a group of young men throwing rocks at U.S. agents. The young men were suspected drug smugglers, according to U.S. authorities.
Autopsy findings shows that the Rodriguez was hit from behind in the head, neck and body. The deceased boy’s immediate family is considering a lawsuit against the U.S. government.