Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona
show that there have been "widespread acts of abuse and impunity" in U.S. Border Patrol interior checkpoints and patrol operations that happen far from the border.
The ACLU’s report, co-authored with two University of Arizona law professors, says the Border Patrol documents—which were gotten through an ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency—detail agents "terrorizing" motorists "into the interior of the country;" detaining and searching travelers after false alerts by service canines; threatening people with assault rifles and other weapons; destroying personal property.
Problem is, "These abuse records substantially outnumber the annual complaint totals DHS oversight agencies disclosed to Congress," the ACLU of Arizona press release says. Investigations into possible civil rights violations rarely happen, and despite many reports of abuse and corruption, the documents only mention one example of disciplinary consequences.
Also, numbers show the checkpoints aren't as efficient as they are being portrayed. In 2013, Tucson Sector checkpoint apprehensions were 0.67 percent of the sector's total apprehensions, the press release says. The same year, Yuma Sector checkpoint arrests of U.S. citizens "exceeded those of non-citizens by a factor of nearly eight (and in 2011, by a factor of 11):"
The report summarizes scores of civil rights complaints submitted to (the Department of Homeland Security) oversight agencies that do not appear to have been properly investigated, including:A Border Patrol agent in Green Valley, Ariz., followed a store employee into a parking lot, approached the individual with a service revolver drawn, ordered him to his knees, and handcuffed him. When other employees approached, the agent yelled, “Stay away or I’ll shoot you.” After ten minutes, the agent removed the handcuffs, released the employee, and drove away.
One complaint described multiple stops of the Tohono O’odham Community College school bus at the Highway 86 checkpoint, including one in which passengers were forced to disembark and submit to interrogation and searches of their personal effects before being released. Other records show Border Patrol monitoring Tohono O’odham community meetings and Know Your Rights events.
A Border Patrol agent reported a supervisor at Border Patrol’s Naco Station instructed agents to “stop any vehicle on the US/Mexican border road that is open to the public.” The supervisor allegedly “didn’t care if it was the Chief of the Border Patrol and the agent conducted a high risk traffic stop … at gun point” because he “would then know they were doing their job.”
The Nogales City Attorney’s Office reported racial profiling and abuse of authority after agents at the I-19 interior checkpoint relied on a claimed canine alert to detain and search the attorney. The complaint references a Deputy City Attorney detained and searched on other occasions on the basis of claimed or false canine alerts.
“Border Patrol’s own records show that the agency’s extra-constitutional police practices often result in abuses of border residents far into the interior of the country and with no consequences for the agents involved,” said ACLU of Arizona Attorney James Lyall in a statement to the media. “At a time of increasing national attention to police accountability, Congress and the Obama administration should not allow the Border Patrol to conceal this ugly reality from the American public.”
Check out the entire report on the ACLU of Arizona website.