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

Don't like the oompa loompa but are you serious lol, you use an article in which you admit abuse in Obama's baby cages and pay for play detention centres to lambast a guy who is simply taking his cue from past administration's. How more misguided can you get.

Paperpushermj

So why didn't she file for her DACA protection

Anonymous

Remember the A in ACLU stands for American.

Anonymous

Dont come here illegally and you won't have any issue! Wheres the personal responsibility of the criminals here ILLEGALLY?

Mandy

I imagine it’s a lot better under Trump because he actually practices what he preaches. Obama just told people what they wanted to hear and believed anything.

Aaron

You also imagine trump tells the truth too huh? trump preaches night and day that he wants to secure our country and its borders to keep America safe yet hasn't hired the required amount of Border patrol agents established by Congressional mandate that number is 21,370 and there are only 19,000 and diminishing daily will lose hundreds more the longer he keeps his traitorous shutdown going! In another month their won't be any Border Patrol Agents and TSI Security Personnel are already starting to walk out showing excessive sick calls and some probably have quit without notice which is their right under these treasonous circumstances! So how is this practicing what he preaches about keeping us safer? This shutdown is making us more vulnerable to terrorist attack as they may have already entered through vulnerable airports with undermanned overworked security staff who are tired and unpaid? You're repeating trumps's old unsupported lie about President Obama which is weak! It's obvious you know very little to nothing about President Obama or you just hate him that much that you denigraye him like trump has done for over 2 decades!??

Madonna Not

What does it take for these throngs of people to get the message: stay away.? How dull-witted can they be? The US is currently over-run with unproductive, non-taxpaying people who use services.
Or maybe people from Mass., CN, NY and other NE states would like to take them in.

Anonymous

True! I just saw a study done recently that says the 11 million they say are here illegally is actually more than double that. Anywhere from 22 to 30 million with about 65% of them living on the taxpayers dime.

Anonymous

Funny you sorry story backfired. The media keeps the real haters happy and make it look like Trump is hated by so many. What you don’t know is the ridiculous non stop attacks on Trump has only strengthened the support for the man. How about spending our money on the wall so we can control the border, I said control not stop immigration. Go Trump 2020

Anonymous

And there is absolutely no way that the ACLU is embellishing or leading us to believe that this is the norm. Please tell us about the 99.99 percent of people who get treated with respect even though they are breaking laws.

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