and Family Separation at the Border
As Pope Francis stated in his message for the 2014 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” A new study released September 2015 finds, however, that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not fulfilling its obligation to protect the civil and human rights of migrants apprehended, detained and deported back to Mexico.
Commissioned by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a bi-national organization in Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, which works to promote humane U.S.-Mexico border and immigration policies, “Our Values on the Line: Migrant Abuse and Family Separation at the Border” details the results of an in-depth survey of Mexican migrants deported from the United States to the border city of Nogales, Mexico.
This report highlights the need for better accountability mechanisms to address alarming rates of abuse of migrants by Border Patrol. Scroll down for the key findings, testimonies, and recommendations highlighted in the report.
of deported Mexican migrants reported abuse by Border Patrol
of migrants who traveled with immediate family members reporting having been separated from these family members
of migrants reported being deported at night
Already coming from places of stress and turmoil, migrants deserve help and care and are instead currently being abused and mistreated.
Key issues highlighted in the report included:
There has been a severe increase of formal removal of migrants, resulting in likely referrals to the Department of Justice on criminal immigration charges rather than the voluntary removal that allows a person to return without penalties. Another consequence of formal removal is that an individual is typically no longer eligible for a family-based or work-related visa due to a restrictive and permanent barring.
Separated families increase vulnerability for all members of the family, and it can happen due to a variety of reasons. Sometimes immigrants are separated from their traveling partners before they meet Border Patrol. Another example is that there are also examples of families being deported to different ports of entry, sometimes willful, sometimes negligently, and the whereabouts of family members are not easily obtained. Additionally, long-term detention or incarceration of one or more family members in a group may cause families to be separated.
Alma, 42, was traveling with her daughter Lizbeth, 24, in March 2015. They could not make it any further in the desert so they sat down to wait for Border Patrol agents.
When the agents arrived, they threw the women’s food on the ground and said “you have rat food.”
When the agents arrived, they threw the women’s food on the ground and said “you have rat food.” They then started to pat down Alma and Lizbeth. Alma was bothered by the way that one male officer was patting down Lizbeth because he seemed to be doing so in an overly sexualized way. At one point when he was touching her in this sexualized manner, she said “that’s my underwear!” When Alma tried to object, the other agents got angry at her.
Upon arrival at the holding cell, they decided to file a complaint about the agent’s actions. They signed various papers, but the officials at the short term detention facility said they could not receive the complaint. The next day, a lawyer arrived to speak with both Alma and Lizbeth about their treatment, but neither are sure if that was a formal complaint. A few hours later they were both deported and upon arrival in Mexico filed a complaint with the Mexican consulate.
They are not sure what has come of their efforts to denounce the abuse.
Alonso, a 30–year–old Mexican national, was crossing the desert in July 2015 with his two nephews, ages 16 and 17, and his cousin, age 15. The four were fleeing insecurity back home. It was their first time attempting to enter the U.S.
Upon arrival at the station, Alonso was placed in a different cell than his nephews and cousin. At no moment did the Border Patrol agents ask Alonso or his nephews or his cousin if they were related.
Only about 30 minutes into their journey, they were found by a Border Patrol helicopter and detained. All four of them were put into the same truck and taken to the Tucson Border Patrol Station. Upon arrival at the station, Alonso was placed in a different cell than his nephews and cousin. At no moment did the Border Patrol agents ask Alonso or his nephews or his cousin if they were related. Alonso’s nephews were not asked if they feared return to Mexico and when Alonso mentioned concerns about violence, the Border Patrol agent responded that many people made similar claims.
After spending a night in the Border Patrol holding cell, Alonso was deported through Mexicali the next day without ever seeing an asylum officer. He thought that his teenage relatives had also been deported through the same city. But upon arrival in Mexicali he asked the Mexican consulate if the children had already been deported, and the consulate told him that they had no information about them. Later that day, Alonso called his sister and discovered that his nephews and cousin had been deported through Nogales. He had to wait another day in Mexicali so that his family could send him the 540 pesos for the bus to Nogales.
By the time Alonso arrived at the DIF shelter in Mexico where his nephews and cousin were, they had waited in the shelter for three days. They had no idea where their uncle was and thought that possibly he had been given a longer jail sentence. While Alonso was able to be reunited with his nephews, the DIF shelter would not permit him to take his cousin out of the shelter because cousins are not allowed to assume custody of underage migrants.
Lucia is 32 years old and emigrated from Oaxaca. She was traveling with her brother and her nephew and they crossed into the U.S. near the small town of Roma, Texas in July 2015. The three of them had been walking for 5 days when Border Patrol detained all of them. At the moment of detention, no agent asked about whether they were family members. They were taken to the McAllen Border Patrol Station and Lucia told the agent who interviewed her that she came with her brother. She asked to be deported with him. The Border Patrol agent responded that it didn’t matter if they were siblings, there was no guarantee they would be deported together.
Lucia’s brother and nephew were deported to Matamoros a day after they were detained, while Lucia remained another day in detention and was then deported through Reynosa. She did not know that they had deported her brother and nephew because they were in different cells in the Border Patrol Station. When she arrived with Mexican migration officials in Reynosa, she asked about her brother but they said they did not have any information about him or where he had been deported.
Lucia felt very vulnerable by herself in Reynosa because she knew that the city was dangerous.
Lucia felt very vulnerable by herself in Reynosa because she knew that the city was dangerous. She quickly went to the migrant shelter in town and called her family. When she talked to her family, she realized that her cousin and her brother had been kidnapped immediately after being deported through Matamoros. They escaped after two days. Lucia did not leave the migrant
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