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Why Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is One of America’s “Most Out-of-Control Enforcement” Agencies

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Customs and Border Protection (CBP), like its agency cousin ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), is a relatively new agency and has only operated since 2003. In that short time, however, CBP has developed a long record of abuses — so many that Politico once called it America’s “most out-of-control enforcement agency” — yet the Trump Administration has done nothing to rein in its excesses. Under his presidency, CBP has increasingly run roughshod over immigrants’ rights and legal protections.  

Below are just some of the reasons why CBP must be called out as an agency:

  • Reportedly denied medical care to women who were pregnant or miscarried while in their custody, sometimes shackling them around the stomach
  • Seized more than $58,000 from a U.S. citizen from a Cleveland man — 12 years of savings —  for absolutely no reason. The man had been traveling to Albania, seeking to buy a second home there. CBP seized another $41,000 from a U.S. citizen for no reason, which was money the registered nurse had saved to help build a health clinic in Nigeria.
  • Failed to inform 43 percent of immigrants of their right to contact their country’s consulate after being detained by CBP, according to a 2018 report.
  • Prevented twenty-six lawyers and family members from seeing clients and relatives CBP held at airports following Trump’s initial Muslim ban, according to a complaint filed by the by the Center for Constitutional Rights. It was revealed later that CBP directed its agents not to answer questions from lawyers or members of Congress.  
  • Detained Muhammad Ali, Jr. at a Florida airport for nearly two hours, asking him multiple times, “are you Muslim?” They also wrongfully detained Australian children’s book author Mem Fox for two hours and Henry Rousso, a French Jewish Holocaust scholar, for 10 hours.
  • Shot and killed an unarmed, undocumented woman in the head at the southern border; CBP officers have also shot and killed teenagers for throwing rocks.
  • Been investigated for alleged sexual assault in a “hazing” ritual that involved a “rape table” by CBP officers at the Newark Airport. A CBP officer along the southern border was accused of sexual assault of asylum seekers.
  • Seen more than 140 of their agents arrested over past ten years for corruption charges, a rate of corruption that a former CBP senior official said “exceeded that of any other US federal law enforcement agency”.
  • Settled a $1 million case after a teenager died because a CBP agent told the teen to drink liquid meth – the agents involved still work for the agency.
  • The ACLU reported that from 2009-2014, CBP physically abused over a hundred immigrant children in their custody; a fourth of those were alleged sexual assault. There were also, almost 11,000 allegations of physical and sexual abuse against CBP from 2010- 2016.
  • A 2013 report from the Office for the Inspector General for DHS found that CBP had so many complaints of excessive force – and recorded them so poorly – that a proper tally couldn’t be identified.
  • A 2014 independent review found that CBP agents would deliberately step into the path of cars to justify shooting at the drivers.
  • In 2015, the ACLU sued DHS “for its failure to produce records related to the abuse and mistreatment of children in the custody of” CBP
  • In 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that just “13 of 809 abuse complaints sent to CBP’s internal affairs unit between January 2009 and January 2012 led to disciplinary action.” Another report found 95.9% of the 1,255 cases in which an outcome was reported resulted in “no action” against the officer or agent accused of misconduct.
  • In 2013 a report by Families for Freedom, found that at one bus station CBP agents mistakenly arrested 300 people with legal status from 2006 to 2010.

Also read

The Many, Many Reasons Why ICE is a Rogue Agency