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ACLU Demands Investigation Of Alleged Customs And Border Protection Abuses

The ACLU is calling for an investigation into alleged abuse by Customs and Border Protection agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Aired 5/10/12 on KPBS News.

The ACLU is calling for an investigation into alleged abuse by Customs and Border Protection agents along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a complaint sent to the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday, ACLU attorneys from the four southern border states say customs agents appear to be engaging in widespread abuse of legal border crossers.

Attorney Sean Riordan from the ACLU’s San Diego office spoke to KPBS.

“We have people being subjected to coercive interrogation," he said. "We have people being forced to give up their travel documents, we have people being strip-searched, drug out of their cars with guns pointed at their heads.”

Riordan and attorneys from the four southern border states took testimonials from U.S. citizens, legal residents and authorized travelers who say they were harassed or abused by customs officers as they were trying to enter the country.

They include travelers allegedly slammed against walls, and one who reported being chained by his toe to a metal bench.

The Customs and Border Protection Agency has hired thousands of new agents in recent years.

“We do have concerns about whether they’re being trained appropriately about the important constitutional rights that all travelers have,” Riordan said.

The ACLU wants an investigation of each of the cases included in its complaint, better training and reforms within Customs and Border Protection.

Customs and Border Protection issued a statement in response.

"CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe," it said. "We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within ourranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty.”

Comments

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 10, 2012 at 2:41 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank you, ACLU.

This is something the powers that be want to just sweep under the rug, but for every videotaped incident you can guarantee there are many more abuses the public never sees.

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Avatar for user 'infinitig35'

infinitig35 | May 10, 2012 at 8:44 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank you, ACLU,

I have been crossing the border for more than 40 years. In those years I have seen a lot of abuse directed at Mexican and or Mexican looking people. I have been the subject of that abuse more than once.

About 35 years ago as a tourist trying to go to Los Angeles and getting a "permit" to go there an immigration officer asked me: what do you do, I responded I work part time and study part time(I was 23 years old and in college). He said what do you do more and I responded about half and half. Then he said "go back to Mexico since you do not know what you do more. I had a valid visa and a passport.I had traveled 1000 miles to visit family. I could not give up. He did not allow me to go to LA. I went back to Tijuana crossed in a different lane and "permit" was given to me by a non abusive agent.
People do not get in line to get a visa sometimes far from the city of origin and a great economic sacrifices to be told by an abusive agent something like what I experienced.

This is a story I have seen and heard with different variations and of course different peoples. This problem is not related to the new hiring but it is and has been part of the old INS and kept by the new renamed "service".

I have crossed the border possibly a few thousand times since that day. I am now a US citizen. I have seen no change in the bad attitude of many agents. I also believe the majority of them are good agents.

Thank you, ACLU.

p.s. If more American citizens had to cross the border more often I am sure those bad agents would have been fired a long time ago. Mexican citizens do not vote here and that is why those abusive agents get away with it.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 9:33 a.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

Read the AP report, it is a little more detailed. Go the the Channel 8 website.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 9:40 a.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

In the AP report, Riordan is quoted as saying "By no means do we believe we have captured the scope or the depth of the problem."

This isn't an immigration issue. It's a civil rights issue. Although of course, the Constituion IS suspended at port of entries and airports. But chaining and striking people is totally unacceptable.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 11, 2012 at 9:42 a.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

A coworker returning from Brasil observed a Chinese or Chinese-American woman being harrassed by the CPB. She was the only person on his flight treated in such a manner.

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Avatar for user 'Jesse Thomas'

Jesse Thomas | May 11, 2012 at 11:47 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

"alleged" abuse? Here's a rule of thumb: If it's a government agent with a gun and the power to abuse and terrorize people while UNDER protection of their labor unions, then rest assured: IT'S more than just an allegation: It happened.

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Avatar for user 'Roberto Rolando Salinas'

Roberto Rolando Salinas | May 16, 2012 at 10:22 a.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

The misconduct, mistreatment, racial profiling, at the hands of the malcontents is endemic in the system. The history of law enforcement is based on a brutal history of racism, repression, union busting, and constitutional violations of citizens and non-citizens alike. Our country's constitution is supposed to protect all people,citizens or not, everybody is afforded it's protection. It is not surprising that people are terrorized, beaten, illegally detained, and have documents confiscated illegally. The public is totally defenseless against the growing numbers of attacks from law enforcement, many of them resulting in serious injury or death. There are no protections and there never have been. Border history is replete with the brutally repressive conduct of the Texas Rangers, Border Patrol, ICE, Customs, mostly against Mexicans, Native Americans, Blacks, Chinese and other minorities. This conduct is allowed to continue because the Justice Department does little to prosecute those that commit these acts. It is a management style that is allowed to continue, the conduct on the street is totally controlled by the conduct at the top, a top to bottom corruption of the system. The Obama administration, and the Justice Department's, Eric Holder, perpetuate the unconstitutional abuse of power by their silence an inaction. Their dereliction of duty has clearly demonstrated they will do nothing.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | May 16, 2012 at 1:14 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

Bob Rooney,

Bigotry and stupidity are linked. You're justifying terrible treatment of legal border crossers because of the illegal immigration problem!?!? The real problem is mind sets like yours. I have a new idea for a T-shirt:

Support Higher Education. Put Bigots Like Bob Rooney Through 3rd Grade.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | May 16, 2012 at 2:08 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

It only takes one bad apple to ruin the batch as the saying goes. I'm sure people have looked the other way a long time and this could lead to important changes. I'm also sure most in law enforcement are better than this and we should not judge them all by the actions of ignorant people on the same staff.

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Avatar for user 'Roberto Rolando Salinas'

Roberto Rolando Salinas | May 16, 2012 at 3:39 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

The reason that this conduct is allowed to continue is because most cops don't rat out other cops. It can very dangerous for law enforcement officers to call attention to actions involving abuse of power in a department. When complaints are filed, it can lead to isolating the person reporting it. It can result in receiving bad performance evaluations, assignments that nobody else wants, or being exposed to volatile work conditions with little or no backup. Besides, who is going to conduct the investigation, an independent third party? The very supervisors that allow the culture of corruption to continue, conduct, or direct the investigation of the complaint. The best way to get along in a police agency is to go along. Why do you think it has taken two years for the murder investigation to be concluded on the taser and fatally beaten man at the border. Why do you think the Justice department does not prosecute more murders by law enforcement officers, or why the DA's office touts the state's best prosecution record, but elects to absolve police shootings of citizens. A virtual police state where the public is left to defend itself.

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Avatar for user 'infinitig35'

infinitig35 | May 18, 2012 at 7:51 p.m. ― 2 years, 2 months ago

Roberto, 100% right !!!

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