U.S. rights group seeks probe of border complaints

The American Civil Liberties Union report said legal border crossers were subjected to excessive force, detentions based on mistaken identity, and unnecessary seizure of documents and property.

U.S. rights group seeks probe of border complaints

World Bulletin/News Desk

A leading U.S. civil rights group asked on Thursday for a federal investigation into complaints from people who said they were abused by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents when they entered the United States legally from Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union report, which cited 11 examples of abuse, said legal border crossers were subjected to excessive force, detentions based on mistaken identity, and unnecessary seizure of documents and property.

The organization's report follows a pair of high-profile deaths near the border in 2010. In one, a customs officer shocked an illegal immigrant with a stun gun just inside California, and in the other a 15-year-old Mexican boy was shot after throwing rocks at officers near a Texas border crossing.

Sean Riordan, attorney for the ACLU San Diego and Imperial County chapter, said his organization's concerns were primarily with a division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection called the office of field operations, which runs points of entry.

"What seems to be a big problem is the sense of impunity that the officers have when it comes to dealing with people and a failure in accountability and oversight within the agency," Riordan said.

The report detailed a 2011 incident in which a woman identified as "Jane Doe" was summoned to a New Mexico border crossing to give a statement about her allegation of a previous sexual assault by a Customs and Border Protection officer. When she arrived, she was separated from her family and an ACLU representative and patted down by two female Border Patrol officers, the report said.

"Following that meeting, Ms. Doe, traumatized by what had occurred on that day, no longer wanted to proceed with the criminal investigation," the report said, adding that she asked for it to be closed and it was.

The ACLU report asked the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to promptly investigate the specific abuse allegations and undertake a comprehensive probe of similar complaints.

The report also called for "significant changes in Customs and Border Protection training, oversight and accountability."

The customs agency said in a statement responding to the ACLU report that it "stresses honor and integrity" in every aspect of its mission.

"We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty," it said.

The 24 points of entry along the U.S. border from Texas to California counted more than 165 million crossings in 2010, statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation showed.

The ACLU report echoed findings and recommendations made last year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in a report that found 4,000 officers had no record of training on basics that included immigration law or "other training relevant to their assigned duties."

Customs officials responded that the agents had been trained, but adequate records were missing.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Mayıs 2012, 11:14

Muhammed Öylek

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