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Shocking human rights violations at US border come to light

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Shocking human rights violations at US border come to light

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A family navigates the bank of the Rio Grande past razor wire while searching for an entry point into the United States from Mexico, in Eagle Pass, Texas, US, July 30, 2023. (Reuters)
A family navigates the bank of the Rio Grande past razor wire while searching for an entry point into the United States from Mexico, in Eagle Pass, Texas, US, July 30, 2023. (Reuters)

A report released by two Latin America-focused NGOs, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), highlights persistent human rights abuses by US border agents at the US-Mexico border. 

The report points to alarming incidents of deaths in custody, abusive language, denial of food, and family separation by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. 

The report reveals that CBP, the federal government’s largest civilian law enforcement agency, has a long-standing issue of human rights abuse without adequate accountability. Formal complaints filed to CBP have shown minimal resolution, with only 5% leading to policy recommendations or disciplinary actions against the agents involved.

“We have documented a shocking pattern, including cases of misuse of lethal force, intimidation, sexual harassment, and falsifying documents,” says report co-author Adam Isacson. The lack of accountability within the agency has created a culture that enables human rights violations, making abuses a recurring problem.

One case documented in the report involved a Salvadoran woman and her family seeking asylum. Despite turning themselves into Border Patrol agents, they faced derogatory language and threats, with an agent pulling a gun on the mother, calling them “terrorists” and “criminals.”

The report also sheds light on the inadequate conditions in which migrants are held in CBP facilities, with some staying for more than the stipulated 72 hours. Although family separation is less common now than during the previous administration, it still occurs, with 145 migrant children separated from their parents during the 2022 fiscal year.

The NGOs have proposed over 40 recommendations to address the issue, including reforming the complaint process, ensuring thorough investigations, and penalising agents involved in abuse. They believe that implementing common-sense reforms can stop cruelty and align border governance with democratic values.

The report’s revelations have ignited debates over the agency’s practices, with some lawmakers considering impeachment of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who oversees the border patrol. However, despite these concerns, recent department statistics indicate a decrease in the number of border crossings.

The report’s authors stress the urgent need for comprehensive reforms within CBP to uphold human rights and treat migrants at the US-Mexico border with fairness and respect, even amid polarised national debates on border and immigration policies.

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