The Border Patrol Was Monstrous Under Obama. Imagine How Bad It Is Under Trump.

UPDATE: On May 23, CBP issued a statement calling our report unfounded. Our point-by-point rebuttal is here.

On a December morning, Border Patrol agents confronted a 15-year-old high school student named Jahveel Ocampo at a rest stop in California while she and her friends were on their way to the mountains to see the winter’s first snow. Jahveel was a young child when she came to the United States from Mexico with her parents, and she grew up undocumented in southern California. She was a mother to a 2-year-old child, who was a U.S. citizen.

An agent in a blue jacket asked whether Jahveel was an “illegal.” He handcuffed her and drove her to a Border Patrol station in the border town of Campo. There, he slapped her twice on the buttocks and ordered her into a cell. He and another male agent told her to sign an “order of voluntary departure,” a deportation order. She refused.

Then the threats began. One agent said, in Spanish, according to the complaint she filed later, “Right now, we close the door, we rape you and f*** you. If you cooperate with us, we can deport you to Mexico. Otherwise, we will take you to jail and deport your entire family.” They told her that her child would end up in foster care.

Terrified and alone, Jahveel signed.

If you assumed this abuse happened during the Trump administration, think again. Jahveel was threatened in 2009 by President Obama’s Border Patrol, and her treatment was not an isolated incident. Her case is part of a pattern of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by Customs and Border Protection officials against child immigrants that existed long before President Trump emboldened the agency by unleashing its officers to enforce his draconian immigration policies.

We have received more than 30,000 pages of internal government documents detailing this abuse between 2009 and 2014 throughout the southern border region. These records, obtained through an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent litigation, offer a glimpse into an immigration enforcement system that had been plagued by brutality and lawlessness long before Trump was elected.

Customs and Border Protection — the Border Patrol’s parent agency — is now the largest law enforcement organization in the United States, with more than 60,000 employees and a fiscal year 2018 budget of $16.4 billion. And while the number of people crossing the border without documents has dropped significantly, Trump has said he wants to hire thousands more Border Patrol agents while deploying the National Guard to the border to bolster its forces. Now the federal government has created a policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, which could dramatically increase the number of minors encountering immigration officials by themselves and create potential for expanded abuses.

Our FOIA request yielded documents from four agencies in the Department of Homeland Security. On Wednesday, the ACLU and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago School of Law released a report that includes documents from one agency, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, a DHS oversight agency. We will release additional documents from the other three agencies in the coming months.

The records show that the leadership at Customs and Border Protection were well aware of the allegations of unlawful child abuse — including people still now directing the agency — yet there is no indication that any individual official was ever held accountable for abuse.

In one complaint we obtained, a Border Patrol agent grabbed a girl he claimed was running away, handcuffed her to someone else and dragged them together along the ground, causing “two bruises on her neck, scratches to her shoulders and arms, and thorns in her head.” A 16-year-old recounted that a Border Patrol agent threw him down before he used his boot to smash his head into the ground.

Other children allege that agents assaulted them with their feet, fists, flashlights, and Tasers. In one case, an agent ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then got out and punched the child in the head and body. Often, children noted that other agents witnessed the abuse or saw the injuries but refused them medical attention. In one case, agents accused a pregnant minor of lying about the pain — which turned out to be labor contractions preceding a stillbirth.

The abuse was also sexual. During an arrest in the desert in Phoenix, Arizona, an agent grabbed a child’s buttocks and only stopped when she screamed and another agent approached. In another incident, a 16-year-old girl reported that a Border Patrol agent forcefully spread her legs and touched her genitals so hard she screamed in pain.

President Trump was endorsed by the Border Patrol union, which had never previously endorsed a presidential candidate. If the abuses were this bad under Obama when the Border Patrol described itself as constrained, imagine how it must be now under Trump, who vowed to unleash the agents to do their jobs.

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Anonymous

The DREAMER Act would have had to pass Congress for Obama to "approve", or more correctly "sign", it. Also, how is using an EO to get around Congress and the will of US Citizens (who cntrol Congress via their vote) not divisive?

Not Anonymous

Obama only started using EOs after years and years of recalcitrant republicans. Remember, one of Trump's big wins is a direct result of how ridiculously obstructive, anti-democratic and in defiance of both law and tradition the republicans were. But at least Obama waited.

Trump went in full force with EOs when he took office. Now he proudly proclaims more EOs than any other administration.

Anonymous

Maybe your right and they should wear cameras if for no other reason than to show light on all the lies being spread by the media, illegal aliens and just in general. But then you all will scream that it’s an Invasion of the illegals privacy. Here’s a little education for you - they are criminals as soon as they entry the United States illegally, they lie shocking right why would a criminal lie, a very small percentage are actually good people. Educate yourself before you make a fool of yourself. If you do not live on the border, are from crazy state of Cali or the middle or eastern United States and get your information from tv, Facebook, one sided news reports , etc. your opinion is irrelevant.

Anonymous

Sure. How can he be responsible for anything? He was on the President.

Anonymous

What can ordinary citizens do the stop this Gestapo-like behaviour?

V. Malone

Were any of these complaints ever reported to President Obama?

Anonymous

Why do you tag ICE when this article is about CBP?

Anonymous

We have Border Patrol in Phoenix?

Anonymous

"Imagine". How about some hard facts. If you have documents that prove abuses happening right now, then publish them. But playing this imagine mind game is childish, unprofessional, and invites outrage that may not be justified.

Anonymous

You can make all the fake accusations you want. When you had the house senate and congress controlled by republicans you don`t get to blame it on one person. How many states are under republican control? Right they have a say in what goes on in their state and have authority over what the president can do or control.

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