Stories impacting San Diego's Latino Community

New Allegations of Excessive Force at U.S. Ports of Entry

The ACLU is a demanding the Department of Homeland Security conduct an internal investigation

By Diana Guevara
|  Friday, May 11, 2012  |  Updated 12:30 PM PDT
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Chilean businessman Hernan Cuevas claims what happned to him at the Calexico port of entry in May of 2011 hasn't happened in the 15 years he's been traveling all over the world.  Sean Riordan, a lawyer for the ACLU, explains the complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security. NBC 7's Diana Guevara reports.

Chilean businessman Hernan Cuevas claims what happned to him at the Calexico port of entry in May of 2011 hasn't happened in the 15 years he's been traveling all over the world. Sean Riordan, a lawyer for the ACLU, explains the complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security. NBC 7's Diana Guevara reports.

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security after nearly a dozen travelers claimed that their rights were violated.

NBCSanDiego has learned that six of those travelers were trying to cross the border in San Ysidro, Otay Mesa and Calexico. Each one claims that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents used excessive force and violated their civil rights.

Hernan Cuevas says that is what happened to him back in May of 2011 while trying to drive back into the U.S. at the Calexico port of entry.

“Those agents were behaving like they were above the law,” Said Cuevas. “That's something that we definitely have to help to stop,” he adds.

The Chilean businessman claims he handed a valid Visa to an agent, and then with no explanation, he says, he was handcuffed, interrogated and subjected to a strip search.

“Then I was chained to a bench that was over 100 degrees at that time. And I was left there for many hours. My pleas for water were unheard,” Cuevas explained.
 
The ACLU has filed a complaint with the DHS on Cuevas' behalf and 10 other travelers. We are told most of them are U.S. citizens or people lawfully residing or visiting the U.S.

According to the ACLU, there is an increase in cases where agents are accused of excessive force, ignoring due process, and telling detainees that they don't have any rights.

“Whenever the statement you have no rights becomes an accurate representation of reality, Americans should be deeply concerned,” Said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU for San Diego & Imperial Counties.

Keenan also stated, "On behalf of residents along the whole border, we are here to ask for basic accountability.”

Jaqueline Wasiluk, a spokesperson with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, sent a response Thursday saying that they do not tolerate corruption.

She also says that CBP cooperates with any investigations of alleged misconduct by any of their personnel.

Allegations of excessive force by border agents at ports of entry also include Texas and Arizona.

Diana Guevara covers stories involving San Diego's Latino community. Send her your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.
Find more of her stories in our special section.

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