Human Rights Watch Obtains 160 Reports of Migrant Abuses by U.S. Border Officials

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About 160 reports filed by federal asylum officers from 2016 to 202 relay details of abuse that asylum seekers described experiencing during interactions with border officials and while in U.S. custody, reports the New York Times. The records obtained by Human Rights Watch are of reports that asylum officers made after hearing allegations of law enforcement misconduct.  In addition to complaints about physical, emotional and sexual abuse, migrants said in some of the reports that they were not asked whether they feared persecution; that they were told they could not request asylum; that they were pressured with threats to sign documents; and, in a few cases, that they had their documents torn up by border officers.

The documents also show federal asylum officers apologizing for the treatment asylum seekers faced in U.S. custody. In March 2019, one asylum officer said to an immigrant: “U.S. government officials should not be treating you this way. They should be treating you and anyone else with respect.” Similar findings were disclosed in 2014, when the American Immigration Council obtained records detailing more than 800 complaints against border officials, also through a public records request. In a subsequent request, the organization found that out of more than 2,000 allegations of misconduct by border officials filed from 2012 to 2015, more than 95 percent of the cases ended in no action against the accused. The allegations sought by Human Rights Watch had been sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, which has yet to respond. Many immigrant advocates said rough treatment of migrants by Border Patrol agents was par for the course.

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