‘It Should Not Have Happened’: Asylum Officers Detail Migrants’ Accounts of Abuse

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More than 160 reports, obtained by Human Rights Watch, uncover details of mistreatment that asylum seekers described experiencing from borderline officials and portion successful U.S. custody.

The complaints, mostly   based connected  interactions during the Trump administration, travel  astatine  a clip  of accrued  interest  astir  the attraction    of migrants by borderline  and migration  officials.
Credit...Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Eileen Sullivan

Oct. 21, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

A Honduran antheral seeking a harmless haven successful the United States said a Border Patrol serviceman told him that helium would not beryllium granted asylum — a determination the serviceman was not authorized to marque — and erstwhile the migrant refused to motion paperwork, the serviceman said helium would beryllium sent to jail, wherever helium would beryllium raped.

In a study prepared by an asylum serviceman astatine Citizenship and Immigration Services, the serviceman wrote that threatening rape for refusing to motion paperwork was “a gross violation.”

“I’m truly atrocious that this happened to you,” the asylum serviceman recalled telling the man. “It should not person happened.”

In a abstracted relationship of misconduct, a migrant told an asylum serviceman that aft she tried to tally from a Border Patrol serviceman on the southwestern borderline successful April 2017, “he caught maine and threw maine to the crushed successful a precise assertive way. And helium pulled maine up 3 oregon 4 times, and kept slamming maine connected the ground.” She said the serviceman besides grabbed her by the hairsbreadth and kicked her successful the rib cage and little pelvis, causing her to bleed.

These and different accounts are among 160 reports filed by national asylum officers from 2016 to 2021, relaying details of maltreatment that asylum seekers described experiencing during interactions with borderline officials and portion successful U.S. custody. The descriptions, disclosed successful effect to a public records petition made by Human Rights Watch, did not see accusation astir the outcomes of the cases, including whether the complaints were recovered to person merit. And galore different details, including dates and locations, were redacted.

While the complaints are mostly based connected interactions that took spot during the Trump administration, they travel astatine a clip of accrued interest astir the attraction of migrants by American borderline and migration officials. Scenes past month of Border Patrol agents connected horseback successful Del Rio, Texas, corralling Black migrants with their reins person renewed a absorption connected years of complaints astir inhumane attraction of undocumented immigrants.

“The section does not tolerate immoderate signifier of maltreatment oregon misconduct,” a homeland information spokeswoman, Marsha Espinosa, said successful a connection connected Wednesday night. Ms. Espinosa said that nether the enactment of its secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the section was conducting interior reviews “to place and terminate intolerable prejudice and betterment its policies and training,” and connected the usage of force. The bureau has besides added much unit to its Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, she said, and has issued memos connected “the request to respect the dignity of each individual, combat against discrimination, and safeguard civilian rights and civilian liberties.”

President Biden has promised that the Border Patrol agents captured connected camera successful Del Rio would “pay” for their behavior. An interior probe into their actions is underway, and Biden medication officials person promised to publically stock the findings. But successful the past, there has been small transparency astir specified investigations, oregon disciplinary measures.

During his confirmation proceeding connected Tuesday, Mr. Biden’s prime to pb Customs and Border Protection, Chris Magnus, promised lawmakers that helium would beryllium forthcoming astir the Del Rio investigation.

“I person a agelong past of transparency and sharing things with the public, immoderate the result whitethorn be, due to the fact that I deliberation this is however you prolong and physique trust,” said Mr. Magnus, the constabulary main successful Tucson, Ariz. Mr. Magnus has a estimation for changing the civilization of instrumentality enforcement organizations and said that aft Del Rio, “examining tactics and grooming is surely appropriate.”


Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times

When migrants are caught crossing the borderline illegally, a Border Patrol serviceman volition detain and question them. Although the policy has changed temporarily during the pandemic, the officers are expected to inquire if the migrants fearfulness persecution oregon harm successful their location country. If migrants explicit a credible fearfulness astir returning, they are placed into migration tribunal proceedings and yet interviewed by an asylum officer.

The records obtained by Human Rights Watch are of reports that asylum officers made aft proceeding allegations of instrumentality enforcement misconduct. In summation to complaints astir physical, affectional and intersexual abuse, migrants said successful immoderate of the reports that they were not asked whether they feared persecution; that they were told they could not petition asylum; that they were pressured with threats to motion documents; and, successful a fewer cases, that they had their documents torn up by borderline officers.

“The documents marque wide that reports of grievous C.B.P. abuses — carnal and intersexual assaults, abusive detention conditions and violations of owed process — are an unfastened concealed wrong D.H.S.,” said Clara Long, an subordinate manager astatine Human Rights Watch, utilizing the abbreviations for Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security. “They overgarment a representation of D.H.S. arsenic an bureau that appears to person normalized shocking abuses astatine the U.S. border.”

The documents besides amusement national asylum officers apologizing for the attraction asylum seekers faced successful U.S. custody. In March 2019, 1 asylum serviceman said to an immigrant: “U.S. authorities officials should not beryllium treating you this way. They should beryllium treating you and anyone other with respect.”

It is not wide however galore interviews asylum officers conducted during the play that the much than 160 complaints were reported. According to migration data, from 2016 to 2020, determination were 409,000 referrals for credible fearfulness interviews with asylum officers.

Similar complaints person been disclosed previously. In 2014, the American Immigration Council obtained records detailing much than 800 complaints against borderline officials, besides done a nationalist records request. In a consequent request, the enactment recovered that retired of much than 2,000 allegations of misconduct by borderline officials filed from 2012 to 2015, much than 95 percent of the cases ended successful nary enactment against the accused.

Around 2013, immoderate of the asylum officers moving astatine Citizenship and Immigration Services reached retired to a supervisor to spot what could beryllium done astir the complaints they were proceeding from migrants, a erstwhile asylum serviceman said. The erstwhile serviceman was not authorized to publically sermon the interior workings of the bureau and spoke connected the information of anonymity. The reports from migrants were troubling, the erstwhile serviceman said, and they wanted a ceremonial strategy to papers the complaints.

In 2015, the bureau issued a directive to asylum officers to study known oregon suspected misconduct.

The allegations sought by Human Rights Watch had been sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. The radical asked the department past period astir the outcomes of the complaints, but has not received a response, Ms. Long said.

In the reports filed by asylum officers, migrants described being called “pigs,” “herds of animals” and a “parasite.”

“They dainty you similar you are worthless, similar you are not a human,” 1 asylum applicant said successful September 2018.

Mr. Mayorkas said past period that the images from Del Rio “do not bespeak who we are arsenic a department, nor who we are arsenic a country.”

But galore migrant advocates said unsmooth attraction of migrants by Border Patrol agents was par for the course.

This statement was utilized successful defence of a Border Patrol cause who admitted to deliberately moving implicit a Guatemalan migrant, Antolin Rolando Lopez-Aguilar, successful December 2017. A fewer weeks earlier the episode, the agent, Matthew Bowen, referred successful substance messages to immigrants arsenic “mindless murdering savages,” “subhuman” and “unworthy of being kindling for a fire.”

In the tribunal filings, Mr. Bowen’s lawyer argued that his client’s views were “commonplace passim the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector.”

“It is portion of the agency’s culture,” helium said.

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