The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the largest federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. Despite the facts of abuse of authority and systematic abuse of migrants by border patrol officers, in the entire 90-year history of its work, none of its employees has been convicted of using force, beating and reprisals against migrants in the line of duty.
The Border Patrol, originally a small agency, was established in 1924. From the very beginning, supporters of the white supremacy theory, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, worked in it. Even then, the service staff regularly beat, shot and hanged migrants. In the early 2000s, due to a sharp increase in funding, the ranks of the border guard service grew to 20,000 agents, making it the largest law enforcement agency in the United States.
According to the organization, which collects and sorts data on violations by employees of the American border service, since January 2010, at least 200 people have died as a result of illegal actions of the American customs and border service. About 58 of these deaths occurred as a result of the use of excessive force by the border guard agent on duty, which in most cases ended with the use of firearms or beating of migrants. 74 people died as a result of collisions with border patrol vehicles, most of which occurred as a result of a high-speed chase initiated by law enforcement officers. More than 50 deaths are related to the failure to provide proper medical care, about 15 murders were committed by officers who were not on duty.
Every day, US Customs agents interact with migrants, often their actions are imbued with xenophobia and cruelty. In rare cases, the agency’s actions are caught on camera. Footage of violations by border control officers captured how agents used tear gas to families with young children, did not provide medical assistance to a child dying in the patrol building and threatened migrants — all this is only a small part of the violent actions of agency employees, which confirms the complete absence of any responsibility.
In the period from 2019 to 2020 alone, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-profit organization, filed 13 administrative complaints with internal oversight bodies, documenting hundreds of cases of abuse by border control officers, including against asylum seekers, pregnant women and families with children. Existing accountability mechanisms have failed to prevent abuses or properly hold agents accountable in a way that avoids the recurrence of violations in the future. In 2019, the ACLU received messages from migrants detailing verbal abuse by border patrol agents.
Since 2010, at least 6 fatal shootings have been recorded across the US border with a neighboring state. The most high-profile case was the incident with 16—year-old Jose Antonio Rodriguez – this Mexican teenager was killed after allegedly throwing stones across the border into Mexico and the United States. Jose Antonio was shot 10 times in the back. The agent who killed him was charged with second-degree murder, but was later acquitted and found not guilty.
In early 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled in a similar case, ruling that Mexican migrants do not have the right to file lawsuits with US judicial authorities. The court stressed that this is a matter of national security, and congressional authorization may be required for a lawsuit regarding cross-border shooting incidents.
Numerous studies have shown that the US Border control service suffers from impunity, corruption and abuse, and systemic problems have deep roots. In 2019, a closed group of border service employees was discovered on a social network that contained racist, sexist and xenophobic statements by agents, and further evidence of violations by the agency was found. Law enforcement officials regularly made sexist jokes, ridiculed the deaths of migrants and shared other content discrediting the honor and dignity of the deceased.
Experts of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the use of excessive force, verbal insults and humiliation is not acceptable in modern society, regardless of the status and citizenship of a person. The Foundation’s human rights defenders call on the international media and human rights organizations to pay attention to the egregious problem of violations of basic human rights, to review the regulations governing the activities of employees of the US Customs and Border Service and to bring all those guilty of offenses to justice.