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Documents Reveal Serious Abuse Allegations By Minors In Border Patrol Custody

 October 17, 2019 at 10:25 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 35,000 pages of allegations of abuse by us border patrol agents have now been released. The allegations concern the abuse of minors while in customs and border protection custody. And they cover the years from 2009 to 2014 the alleged abuse ranges from beatings to sexual assault. The American civil liberties union obtained the documents through a freedom of information act request. But the report raises as many questions as it answers joining me as KPBS reporter, max Rivlin, nether and max. Welcome. Hi. So do these documents only concern claims from unaccompanied minors? Speaker 2: 00:38 Yes. The documents STEM from freedom of information act litigation that originated when the ACLU along with other nonprofits decided in 2014 to look into specific allegations of assault by border patrol agents against minors. So these were allegations that minors were making who were in border patrol custody, who then interacted with these nonprofits when customs and border protection. We're not as forthcoming about the results of those investigations to those organizations as they were, uh, as they would've liked. That's when they began the freedom of information act litigation. And that's why it's specifically dealing with unaccompanied children and minors. Speaker 1: 01:23 Now, does the timeframe correspond with the surge in unaccompanied minors from central America crossing the border into the U S many claiming asylum that we saw several years ago? Speaker 2: 01:33 Yes. So this stems from the 2014 surge, which really was a precursor to what we've been seeing over the past two years. This happened during the Obama administration. It was a serious influx of children, especially unaccompanied minors who were showing up along the Southern border and being taken into border patrol custody. Uh, many of the same allegations of abuse that we see now originating around the border patrol, uh, is the same as we were receiving then. Uh, so this is not something that's new and not something that is necessarily confined to, uh, the dates contained in this foyer request. Speaker 1: 02:09 Tell us some of the claims in these documents that stood out to you. Speaker 2: 02:13 So these allegations, again, these are just internal documents that either showed investigation by customs and border protection, CBP, DHS, their office of inspector general into allegations made by minors. Right. So again, these haven't been substantiated by DHS in any way. Beyond that. We've written down with the kids who are alleging and we've done some investigation. We've taken some statements. That being said, a lot of what the kids are describing is pretty harrowing. There was one instance where several instances where they've been handcuffed and physically assaulted by officers. There was one in particular where a teenager was handcuffed to a chair and said the border patrol agent tap them or hit them on the head with a flashlight while they said men Theorosa, which means liar, because they didn't believe they were telling the truth about their age and country of origin. There's other instances of children being run over by ATVs while being pursued by border patrol. There's other allegations of sexual assault. There's allegations of children being, uh, stripped of their clothing and, uh, in front of border patrol agents of another gender, there's a allegations, uh, especially one where a teenage boy was stripped down to his boxers, left in a very cold room according to him for several hours. And then after he came out, you know, was complemented by border patrol agents for, you know, showing that he could survive such an ordeal. Speaker 1: 03:41 And one of the questions raised by the release of these documents is what happened next? What happened after these reports of abuse were made war? Any border patrol agents held accountable. What happened to these investigations? Speaker 2: 03:54 Right. So the investigations themselves, in the words of a ACLU of San Diego and Imperial County lawyer, Sarah Thompson, is that these happen in a black box. We don't know the results of these investigations because they're being done internally. Unless the border patrol agent is referred for prosecution or disciplined in some very public way, we will never know the outcome of these investigations. The vast majority of them ended in basically the child recanting their story or these being unsubstantiated, the child being removed before an investigation could take place. Oftentimes the investigation solely consisted of interviewing the border patrol agent who the allegations against, along with other border patrol agents. So it is the border patrol and DHS kind of investigating itself. And it rarely rises to the level of, of what we would consider to be independent investigations. So in a lot of these cases, nothing happens. And, and border patrol has said that they have changed their policies since 2014 since the last date of these allegations. But obviously from what we've seen lately and from what we've heard, again, unsubstantiated, these are merely allegations left for DHS to investigate itself. A lot of this pattern of, of abuse remains. Speaker 1: 05:13 How does the ACL, you a know that, why do they say that this is an ongoing pattern? Speaker 2: 05:20 Over the past five years since the end of this, uh, litigation, we've seen several of the same allegations, surface kids not having food, kids being left, you know, without medical treatment and kids not being given blankets, things of that nature. Um, especially during the last two years, during this most recent surge of children and families across the border that basically have overwhelmed border patrol stations and, and border patrol will, you know, admit that they do not have the resources to, you know, basically adequately care for as many people who have come across the border in this time. And these are very far out locations in terms of these border patrol stations, oftentimes many, many miles away from reinforcements in terms of personnel or medical assistance. You know, the reason why these border patrol stations are so remote is because they have to be right, cause they're patrolling the border. But more and more families and unaccompanied children are going to these remote stretches of the border because they can no longer claim asylum at ports of entry without being deterred by both Mexican and American immigration officials. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, a max, Revlon, Nadler, and max. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 3: 06:44 [inaudible].

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A new trove of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union sheds light on years of alleged abuse of detained minors by Border Patrol agents.
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