Lawsuits Highlight Increase In Complaints Against Border Patrol, Customs


A series of lawsuits along the U.S. border with Mexico highlight what advocates say is a growing list of complaints against two U.S. agencies that have expanded rapidly amid the clamor to secure the nation's borders, McClatchy Newspapers reports. In one lawsuit, a Border Patrol agent is accused of leaping on the hood of a car driven by an unarmed mother of five and shooting her dead. In a second case, a Customs officer violently pushed a disabled woman to the ground. She had a miscarriage the next day. Border officers also had to call firefighters to remove handcuffs that allegedly had bound her wrists too tightly. Critics say the lawsuits are part of a pattern that's become endemic.

In addition to complaints that U.S. Border Patrol agents have used deadly force when their lives were not at risk (agents have killed 21 people since the beginning of 2010, most of them unarmed migrants), agents from the two federal agencies that monitor the borders stand accused of mistreating American citizens. Violent confrontations are only part of the picture. U.S. citizens who live along the border complain that U.S. agents have become a virtual interior police force–disrespectful of private property, looking for pretexts to search vehicles and detaining residents for hours at checkpoints. Fueling the problems, critics say, has been the agencies' rapid expansion, which has led to poor hiring and training and an unwillingness to acknowledge agents' mistakes that encourages the frequent use of physical violence. One lawyer who deals with the agencies accuses them of nurturing “an overly aggressive, bullying culture.”

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