Have you ever been inside a U.S. Border Patrol detention facility? I haven’t. But every year, thousands of migrants, many from Mexico and Central America, are held in these centers. Many have reported that their basic human rights were violated while in U.S. Border Patrol custody. Sadly, U.S. tax dollars are funding this humanitarian rights crisis at our Southwest border, and we need your help to stop it. First, let me tell you a few stories:
After walking through the desert for three days, Gerardo was detained at a U.S Border Patrol detention center in southern Arizona. His feet were severely blistered, but when he requested medical attention, he was only told, “Later” and never did receive any care. Traumatizing songs about people dying in the desert were played over the loudspeakers 24 hours a day at high volume, and every two hours guards came in shouting at the detainees, requiring them to line up for inspection. Jorge said that agents threw out any food the detainees had and provided none even when it was requested; over the course of three days, they received only packets of crackers.
And of course, mistreatment doesn’t end with Gerardo and Jorge. Humanitarian aid organizations at the U.S.-Mexico border, including No More Deaths and a network of migrant rights centers and shelters in Northern Mexico, have spoken to thousands of migrants who reported cases of abuse while in Border Patrol custody.
These disturbing accounts demand a response. In late February, Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher testified before Congress and stated that complaints of misconduct by the Border Patrol are turned over to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for investigation. This is necessary, but ensuring accountability also requires independent, ongoing scrutiny of the agency from outside the Department of Homeland Security, where Border Patrol is housed. A first step? Allowing human rights organizations into Border Patrol’s detention facilities.
Frustrated that complaints regarding abuses against migrants were going unheeded, human rights groups from both sides of the border came to Washington, DC last month to testify before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on these issues. All pushed for improvements to ensure that migrants were protected, including strengthened oversight and accountability for the Border Patrol. They made the case for human rights advocates to monitor detention conditions first-hand, and urged the IACHR to conduct its own investigation into abuses against migrants at the United States Southwest border.
Groups from both sides of the border reveal widespread and systematic human and civil rights abuses – separation of families, mistreatment in detention, excessive use of force – abuses that demand action. The opportunity for independent human rights groups to access Border Patrol facilities is an important first step.
Thanks for everything you do to ensure that these abuses are not swept under the rug.