No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse
Washington, DC: American Immigration Council Special Report, May 2014
14 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 18, 2015
Data obtained by the American Immigration Council shine a light on the lack of accountability and transparency which afflicts the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The data, which the Immigration Council acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, covers 809 complaints of alleged abuse lodged against Border Patrol agents between January 2009 and January 2012. These cases run the gamut of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. Although it is not possible to determine which cases had merit and which did not, it is astonishing that, among those cases in which a formal decision was issued, 97 percent resulted in “No Action Taken.” On average, CBP took 122 days to arrive at a decision when one was made. Moreover, among all complaints, 40 percent were still “pending investigation” when the complaint data were provided to the Immigration Council. The data indicate that “physical abuse” was the most prevalent reason for a complaint, occurring in 40 percent of all cases, followed by “excessive use of force” (38 percent). Not surprisingly, more complaints were filed in sectors with higher levels of unauthorized immigration. During the time period studied, more than one in three complaints filed against Border Patrol agents were directed at agents in the Tucson Sector. After accounting for the different numbers of Border Patrol agents in each sector, the complaint rate remained the highest in the Tucson Sector, with the Rio Grande Valley Sector a close second. Complaint rates as measured in terms of numbers of apprehensions were highest in Del Rio, Rio Grande Valley, and San Diego. Taken as a whole, the data indicate the need for a stronger system of incentives (both positive and negative) for Border Patrol agents to abide by the law, respect legal rights, and refrain from abusive conduct. In order to do that, complaints should be processed more quickly and should be carefully reviewed. Furthermore, the seriousness of the complaints demands an external review.
Keywords: immigration, Customs and Border Protection, mistreatment, complaints
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