Survey says 24% of ICE detainees were subjected to some type of abuse

Researchers interviewed 600 individuals after they were deported. The results were profound.

A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle drives in front of a mural in Tecate, Mexico, just beyond a border barrier in Tecate, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. 

CREDIT: AP Photo/Gregory Bull
A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle drives in front of a mural in Tecate, Mexico, just beyond a border barrier in Tecate, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gregory Bull

A 41-year-old female detained at the southern U.S. border was told by a border agent that she didn’t have the right to speak with the Mexican consulate before she was deported.

“Where does it say you have a right? I don’t see anything.’ He then placed me in detention and shut the door,” the woman who was deported to Ciudad Juárez told immigrant rights advocates.

A 39-year-old Mexican asylum seeker detained at the southern border said he was detained for eight hours before a U.S. official allowed him to fill out an asylum application. He was told he would have a credible fear interview the following day at 4 p.m., the first step in a long process that immigration officials use to determine whether individuals have an actual reason to fear returning to their home countries. Instead, he was deported at 3 a.m. the following day.

When border agents unleashed an attack dog on a 30-year-old Mexican man who had just crossed the border, he laid down on the ground. Border agents ordered the dog to repeatedly attack the man for five minutes, he said, before they took the dog away.


“While I was screaming and trying to defend myself, I saw they had an arm,” the man recounted in a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit organization American Immigration Council. “They fired in the air and ordered me to lift my hands. I did so and they continued to allow the dog to destroy my leg.”

After agents took him to the station to look at his wound, “many agents came and started taking photos, while laughing and laughing, saying this one’s for Facebook.” He was only taken to a doctor after “many hours,” the report stated.

These are only a few testimonies from deportees who say they were abused at the hands of U.S. border officials.

That report, titled “Deportations in the Dark: Coercive Tactics and Deprivation of Information and Processes in the Repatriation of Migrants,” alleges that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents routinely abused and intimidated migrants, detailing a disturbing pattern that advocates worry may increase as the Trump administration intends to detain and deport more immigrants.

The report — based on the accounts of 600 individuals between August 2016 and April 2017, within ten calendar days of their removal from the United States — found that 43.5 percent of respondents surveyed said they weren’t advised of their right to consult their consulate; more than half of people weren’t asked if they feared returning home, depriving them a fair opportunity to present their immigration claims; 23.5 percent said immigration authorities subjected them to some type of abuse or aggression; 50.7 percent said they weren’t allowed to read repatriation documents before signing, while another 42 percent said they didn’t receive their repatriation documents at all. According to one of the researchers Guillermo Cantor, 437 of the interviews analyzed were conducted before January 20, 2017, the date of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and 163 after that date.


One particularly troubling trend researchers found was that migrants were denied basic rights under U.S. laws and policies. When CBP officials detain migrants, they are by law required to tell the detainees of specific rights to which they’re entitled.

Over the last nine months of his presidency, Trump has taken steps to make life difficult for immigrants such as hiring thousands of immigration enforcement agents, threatening to withhold federal funds from cities with immigrant-friendly legislation; increasing the number of immigration detention centers; condoning police departments to rough up suspects; and taking away temporary deportation protections for immigrants brought to the country as children.

Trump’s presidential pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio — an anti-immigrant hardliner whose routine tactics to racially profile Latinos resulted in a criminal conviction and several lawsuits — has similarly left advocates concerned that it augurs a “dismal future” where that kind of behavior is condoned across the board with all enforcement officials.

Still, alleged bad behavior and systemic abuse by border agents is nothing new. There are numerous reports, firsthand allegations, and legal challenges against the various immigration enforcement agencies within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that goes back years. The rate of sexual misconduct within the CBP was “significantly” higher than in other federal law enforcement agencies, a former CBP agency head of internal affairs told CBS News in 2015. And a 2014 FOIA report from AIC found that border agents were rarely disciplined for abuse allegations.

Just as the CBP gets underway with hiring many more new agents to meet Trump’s promise of staffing up the southern U.S. border, its sister U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency was given preliminary approval by the government to destroy documents related to in-custody detainee deaths, sexual assault, and the use of solitary confinement.