U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents risked breaking a repatriation agreement after reportedly attempting to drop off an injured man in Mexico, as seen in a disturbing minutes-long video obtained by NBC News.
The footage — provided by the CBP agency to the news publication after a whistleblower flagged the video’s existence — shows two U.S. border agents in uniform pulling a man into the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico, CA on March 27, 2017. As one U.S. border agent attempts to uncuff the man who appears to be hurt and mentally unstable, another U.S. border agent talks with a Mexican border agent who refuses to take the man without going through the proper repatriation channels. She asks him whether he’s familiar with repatriation agreements and the U.S. border agent responds by saying he’s been doing this job for 20 years.
Under a binational agreement between the two countries, Mexican nationals “must be properly repatriated through the Mexican consulate, a process that includes fingerprinting and confirming the person’s identity. Only then can they be sent back across the border on foot or by other means,” NBC News reported.
At one point during the minutes-long exchange between U.S. and Mexican border agents, the Mexican border agent says, “Look at that. And you don’t even know if he’s Mexican or not.” The U.S. border agent responds, “He looks like it.” The man walks into traffic at one point as the two U.S. border agents walk back on the pedestrian bridge into America. A third border agent appears to corral him before the video ends. NBC News ended with a freeze frame noting that agents left the man in a park on the U.S. side of the border. An individual then called local police because of the man’s “erratic” behavior and he was taken to the hospital for evaluation, a law enforcement source told the publication.
In a response sent Wednesday via email, a CBP spokesperson told ThinkProgress that its Office of Professional Responsibility initiated an investigation into the incident and that the Mexican Consulate had notified the U.S. Border Patrol in March 2017.
“After a review of the incident based on the information available, the Sector’s leadership addressed the agents’ actions,” the spokesperson wrote. “CBP is committed to treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect while enforcing the laws of the United States. CBP takes all allegations of mistreatment seriously, and does not tolerate actions that are not consistent with our core values of Vigilance, Service to Country and Integrity.”
According to NBC News, U.S. border agents encountered the man again on April 19, 2017 after he tried to enter the United States from Mexico. It was “only then” that the man was “taken to be processed at the Mexican consulate, where it was determined he was in fact a Mexican national and had been arrested 16 times for illegal entry to the U.S. in Arizona, Texas and California, the law enforcement source said.”
A CBP spokesperson told the news publication that the video depicted an “isolated incident.” Yet as the publication pointed out, a September 2017 American Immigration Council survey found that many immigrants sent back to Mexico do not receive the proper repatriation documents and aren’t asked questions to assess claims for humanitarian relief. And for years, the agency has deported thousands of unaccompanied minors without documenting whether they would be safe if they were returned to their home countries as a 2015 U.S. Government Accountability Office audit found.