San Diego

Report: 51 Complaints of Abuse Filed at U.S-Mexico Border

Tens of thousands of people walk or drive through the San Ysidro Port of Entry every day, making it one of the busiest ports in the world.

Local activists are investigating cases of alleged verbal and physical mistreatment at the U.S.-Mexico border including dozens of complaints from the Otay and San Ysidro port of entries.

The report was developed over the last two years. It was compiled by volunteers who would randomly ask people who'd just crossed the border about their experience and how they were treated by agents.

Tens of thousands of people walk or drive through the San Ysidro Port of Entry every day, making it one of the busiest ports in the world.

A two-year report released by the American Friends Service Committee looked into 51 cases of alleged verbal or physical mistreatment of people at this location.

Border agents tend to be more aggressive, according to Pedro Rios with the American Friends Service Committee.

One woman said she was harassed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) employees in February 2016. She claims her arm was bruised when she was handcuffed. Officers yelled at her, she said, and forced her to kneel while they inspected her vehicle.

“She complained that this was painful to her, to her knees. After a long while she was eventually released,” Rios said.

Nothing was found. No charges were filed.

Al Dolezal goes to Tijuana about twice a month. He said he’s never really had a problem. In his experience, returning to San Diego is a smooth process.

“I think they are pretty professional,” Dolezal said. “Of course, officers have some bad days.”

Some travelers say, if you have an easy access pass, for the SENTRI or READY lane, things are a lot easier. Those who don't have such a pass may get asked more questions.

Tijuana resident Sandra Molinas said she’s experienced a litany of questions.

"Where are you going, why are you crossing, why do you keep on going back and forth, if you are a U.S. citizen,” Molinas explained.

Fifty-one cases is a small percentage compared to tens of thousands of people who cross every day.

Rios said people hesitate to file complaints.

“They felt fearful that documenting their case would bring some sort of retaliation against them,” he said. “They felt there wouldn't be any recourse if they did tell their case.”

The committee that released this report said it plans to share its findings with CBP along with its recommendations.

Ralph DeSio, of CBP, released this statement to NBC 7 on behalf of the agency Thursday morning:

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are 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."

Read the full report here.

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