Deathscapes

Border Abuses

Deathscapes

Border Abuses

The militarization of the border has undoubtedly led to excessive uses of force. Border policing forces basically view unauthorized immigrants as criminal enemies and treat them as such. This is clearly visible in the Border Patrol’s treatment of immigrants who are apprehended crossing the border, held in short-term custody, and deported. In various reports and other documents, NGO and immigrant rights groups have described how abuse, dehumanization, and neglect is part of the institutional culture of the Border Patrol.

In a report titled ‘A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-term U.S. Border Patrol Custody’ (2011), the humanitarian NGO No More Deaths vividly documents the abuse that immigrants suffer. From Fall 2008 and Spring 2011, the group conducted 4,130 interviews with 12,895 individuals who had been in the custody of the Border Patrol. They found that immigrants were routinely denied food, water, and medical treatment. They were also often placed in overcrowded and exceedingly cold holding cells. Furthermore, children, women, and other vulnerable individuals were often deported to Mexico at night. Finally, migrants were subjected to pervasive verbal abuse (in particular derogatory sexual and racial epithets), as well as to physical abuse (agents striking and/or kicking people in custody, use of chokeholds, and so forth).

Other groups have similarly documented such abuse. In 2013, the Immigration Policy Center produced an important report titled ‘Bordering on Criminal: The Routine Abuse of Migrants in the Removal System’. Drawing on the Migrant Border Crossing Study, which is a study of 1,110 individuals repatriated to Mexico between 2009 and 2012, the report focuses on the mistreatment of undocumented migrants while in custody. They found that 23% of migrants suffered verbal abuse (racist and nationalistic remarks), while 11% were subjected to some sort of physical mistreatment (mainly being kicked, punched, pushed, pulled, and or/dragged, but 3% reported being sexually assaulted).

Putting these reports in the context of other studies, it appears that the mistreatment of migrants in Border Patrol Custody is a systematic practice and not a sporadic, random occurrence.

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Report from the Immigration Policy Center.
Report from the Immigration Policy Center, the policy arm of the American Immigration Council.
Report from the NGO No More Deaths.
Report from the NGO No More Deaths.
National Immigration Law Center legal challenge to conditions in short-term detention.
National Immigration Law Center legal challenge to conditions in short-term detention.


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All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.

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