ACLU Demands Federal Investigation Into Charges of Abuse by Border Agents

UPDATED Abuse of U.S. Citizens and Non-Citizens Alike Necessitates Greater Oversight and Accountability FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; SAN DIEGO – The American Civil Liberties Union today demanded a federal investigation into allegations of rampant abuse of individuals, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, by Customs and Border Protection agents at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a complaint filed today with the Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU and its border affiliates in San Diego, Calif., Arizona, New Mexico and Texas document 11 instances in which Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents disregard the civil and human rights of individuals crossing the border in apparent violation of the U.S. Constitution, international law and agency guidelines. Most of the individuals complaining of abuse are U.S. citizens or are lawfully residing or visiting the U.S. “There is simply no justification for the kind of needless abuse CBP officers inflict on many travelers,” said Sean Riordan, staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “Far too many travelers are told by CBP officers that they have no rights. But the government must comply with basic and constitutional rights even when it is policing the border. It is unacceptable that CBP has not established sufficient oversight and accountability mechanisms to prevent officers from physically assaulting, detaining and psychologically abusing travelers.” The ACLU’s complaint includes evidence of excessive force; unwarranted, invasive and humiliating personal searches; unjustified and repeated detentions based on misidentification; and use of coercion to force individuals to surrender their legal rights, citizenship documents and property. In one example, Hernan Cuevas, a Chilean businessman who was attempting to enter the U.S. with a valid visa, was strip-searched and chained to a metal bench for three hours without explanation. One CBP officer told him, “This is my country now and when you are here, you listen to me. I don’t like your kind that takes our jobs and uses our system…” “I could not believe I was in the U.S. I was completely perplexed,” said Cuevas. “The incident was so bizarre that it was a perfect fit for a ‘banana republic,’ a corrupt place without democracy.” Many of the testimonies collected by the ACLU include CBP agents physically attacking women and men, some of whom were handcuffed at the time. Testimonies include unnecessary and invasive searches, which left some affected individuals feeling as though they had been sexually assaulted. The conduct of CBP officers at or near the points of entry along the U.S. border has come under scrutiny in recent years after two high-profile deaths. In May 2010, Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, a 42-year-old construction worker and father of five, died after being beaten and then tased by a group of up to 20 CBP officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego. And in June 2010, Sergio Adr

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