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Study: US CBP border agents routinely abuse immigrant detainees

Even as Congress contemplates adding thousands of new agents to the U.S. Border Patrol, a major study has just revealed apparently systemic abuse of immigrants in the custody of those very agents. After interviewing 1,100 randomly-selected people shortly after their deportations to Mexico, the researchers found a shockingly high number had been subjected to physical, sexual or verbal abuse, along with confiscation of their valuables.

The Immigration Policy Center teamed up with researchers from Georgetown University, the University of Texas-El Paso and the University of Arizona. While it focused on Mexican immigrants detained along the U.S.-Mexican border, there is no reason to believe similar abuses aren’t taking place elsewhere, including here in North Carolina.

The researchers concluded that this degree of unlawful activity can only be the result of major transparency and accountability failures within U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security. DHS declined to comment.

Key points from the study include:

More than 1 in 10 said they had been physically or sexually abused by U.S. agents. Most commonly they reported being painfully pushed, dragged or lifted. About a third said agents had hit, kicked or thrown them down while they were in restraints. Some reported sexual abuse.

"They pushed me around. And they didn't let us sleep," said one interviewee. "Every time we started to sleep they forced us to get up and march or clean the room."

"This type of repetitive, consistent abuse of one in 10 people is really disturbing,” said one of the lead researchers. “It suggests is these are not isolated incidents.”

23 percent reported verbally abuse. Of those, almost 40 percent reported racist slurs.

About a third said their valuables, their IDs, were taken and not returned. The unreturned items ranged from clothing to money, jewelry and even their Mexican identification cards, which are required for internal travel. Many people were left stranded in border regions.

Although many of those in this study were caught attempting to cross the border and summarily deported, unlawful actions in immigration detention centers have been reported nationwide. It’s crucial for the DHS and Congress to stop this systemic mistreatment. People in immigration detention have legal rights. If you or a loved one is being detained or threatened with deportation, you don’t have to allow mistreatment or accept that deportation is inevitable. There are a number of strategic options available that may help.

Source: USA TODAY, “Report: Migrants in custody often abused,” Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic, Dec. 10, 2013

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