San Diego

Over 30,000 Pages of Records Show Abuse of Minors in CBP Custody: ACLU

In one complaint, a 17-year-old boy accused a CBP agent of punching him in the head three times

After nearly four years of fighting the federal government, the American Civil Liberties Union has published documents it said show the abuse of minors at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The ACLU received more than 33,000 pages of official documentation including audio and video clips from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Some of the documents include several complaints from San Diego and Imperial Counties.

In one complaint, a 17-year-old boy accused a CBP agent of punching him in the head three times.

The documentation of alleged abuses goes back to 2008, long before President Donald Trump took office.

"The difference is that back then the enforcement, if someone reported something like that they were taken more seriously as opposed to now it is almost brushed under the table," immigration attorney Jacob Sapochnick said. "You can complain about CBP mistreatment — nothing’s going to happen." 

Sapochnick told NBC 7 this issue of CBP abuse is not an issue of the past, but one he sees regularly in his office.

“We had an incident a few months ago where two sisters were held in a holding facility with cockroaches there for 48 hours," Sapochnick said. Both of those girls were minors, he added.

NBC 7 also recently spoke to a Salvadoran asylum seeker who was detained by CBP for 10 days with her 9-year-old daughter.

“They would give us spoiled burritos with beans to eat, crackers and juice,” the unidentified woman said.

The woman spoke exclusively with NBC 7 of the conditions she and her daughter experienced. NBC 7's Gaby Rodriguez has the story.

Click here for the complete publication and documents.

The ACLU initially started its search for public records after filing a complaint asking the Department of Homeland Security to look into the abuse of more than 100 children by CBP.

The DHS responded saying it would look into the complaints but closed the case 4 months later, according to the ACLU.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection responded to the claims via email:

“CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigates allegations of misconduct on the part of CBP employees when an allegation provides sufficient information necessary to conduct an appropriate inquiry.

All CBP employees embody our core values, perform their duties with integrity, and are dedicated to our mission of securing the American people and our borders while facilitating legitimate trade and travel. The men and women of CBP perform their duties professionally and treat everyone equally with dignity and respect. Children represent the most vulnerable population, and every agent carries a fundamental ethical and moral belief as well as a legal obligation to put the welfare of any child first.”

The records include a wide range of documents such as reports of investigations, agency emails describing investigations, complaints submitted by third parties or nonprofit organizations, agency files describing internal investigations, online complaint forms, and interviews with DHS employees alleged to have abused or mistreated children.

Sapochnick added, “It starts there and then if you don't stop it where is it going to end? Because once you start torturing people that are helpless. what’s going to happen when you go to people that are actually in this country, immigrants that being detained driving by CBP or ICE.”

The Trump Administration said the steep decline in the past few months is due to more restrictive policies.
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