'Roving' Border Patrol Abuses Abound in Southern Arizona

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
October 9, 2013 4:29 pm

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ACLU of Arizona demands investigation of ‘roving’ Border Patrol units in southern Arizona Letter to DHS officials, DOJ details numerous abuses by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials far from the U.S.-Mexico line

October 9, 2013

CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

TUCSON – The ACLU of Arizona is demanding an investigation into U.S. Customs and Border Protections’ abusive and harassing “roving patrols” that operate in southern Arizona, often far from the U.S.-Mexico line.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, DHS’ Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Department of Justice, the ACLU describes citizens’ recent run-ins with CBP including arbitrary vehicle stops, prolonged detentions and other forms of mistreatment by Border Patrol agents.

“In addition to unlawful vehicle stops, the ACLU has documented cases in which Border Patrol agents have interrogated pedestrians on the streets of Yuma and Tucson as well as patients in Tucson area hospitals,” ACLU of Arizona Border Litigation Attorney James Lyall said in the letter.

Cases of Border Patrol agent misconduct reported to the ACLU of Arizona include:

  • Pulling a citizen over as she was driving her young children home from school, threatening her with a Taser and leaving her with a flat tire on the side of a dirt road;
  • Stopping a citizen who was driving on Tohono O’odham land and then dragging her out of her vehicle and detaining her for over an hour without reason;
  • Causing hundreds of dollars in damage to a citizen’s car while he was visiting the Fort Bowie National Historic Site in southeastern Arizona;
  • Pulling over and questioning a man, while holding automatic weapons, on his family’s property 60 miles north of the border for over an hour in front of his relatives; and
  • Stopping and wrenching a citizen from her car, then groping and holding her in handcuffs without explanation until local police intervened.

“Unlawful roving patrol stops by Border Patrol are a longstanding problem,” Lyall said. “The picture that emerges from these incidents and years of litigation is of pervasive abuse and a systemic failure of oversight and accountability at all levels of CBP.”

The Department of Justice recently settled an ACLU lawsuit over similar roving Border Patrol practices in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. In the settlement, CBP agreed to train agents on the lawful application of the Fourth Amendment and provide patrol data to the ACLU for the next 18 months.

“At a time when ports of entry are chronically understaffed, we have CBP agents mistreating citizens without cause as far as 60 miles north of the border,” Lyall said. “It’s unlawful, it’s bad policy and it needs to be taken seriously by the higher-ups at DHS.”

The ACLU insists that Border Patrol abuses in southern Arizona be investigated and the results of those investigations be made publicly available.

“Significant changes in CBP training, oversight, and accountability mechanisms are needed, and we urge you to make substantive recommendations for such changes,” Lyall wrote.

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