Mexican immigrants say U.S. border patrol is taking their belongings before tossing them out

Rafa Fernandez De Castro,
16 April 2016.

The American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and several other civil rights
organizations have filed a complaint on behalf of 26 undocumented
Mexican nationals who claim U.S. border agents “failed to return”
some of their belongings—cash, IDs, cellphones, clothes and
eyeglasses, to name a few—after they were detained in El Paso,
Texas and deported to Ciudad Juárez in 2015 and 2016.

formal complaint
, filed earlier this month to Immigration and
Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, alleges that some border
agents intimidated people to prevent them from rightfully reclaiming
their belongings, which they say were taken without providing receipt
or inventory. Some claimants say they were misled by U.S. officials
about when and how they could reclaim their confiscated belongings.

After Border Patrol
agents took a 58-year-old woman’s jewelry and pesos, officials at a
facility in Otero County [New Mexico] incorrectly advised the woman
that she would have to wait until she was deported to reclaim her
belongings” –
reads one of the complaints
border Patrol agents
took 4,095 pesos [$230 approx.] from a young man and failed to give
him any documents showing that they took his money”,
– reads another
complaint- “he was deported without any money.”


There’s even
allegations that Texas Border Patrol agents destroyed a woman’s
cholesterol and kidney medications and refused to give her medical

ACLU and its partners
claim U.S. government officials “have known about this problem for
some time.” 

This has resulted in repatriation arrangements with the
Mexican government, but systemic abuses persist, according to the
The Department of
Homeland Security says it will review the claims:
DHS has strict
standards in place to ensure that detainee’s personal
property—including funds, baggage and other effects— is
safeguarded and controlled while they are in detention and returned
to them when they are released from CBP/ICE custody or removed from
the United States”,

Deputy Press Secretary Gillian Christensen told
Fusion in an email.
Christensen said
individuals in CBP custody are allowed to keep their IDs and money,
but other personal property is tagged, stored and returned when they
are removed at the border.

Any allegation of
missing property will be thoroughly investigated”
she promised.

American Immigration
Council Senior Attorney Mary Kenney told Fusion the complaint is not
seeking reparations on behalf of the claimants, rather advocating for
change in the future.
We think these 26
individuals are an example that illustrates a much bigger systemic
problem with the way Border Patrol and CBP in general handles
people’s property,”
she said.

The complaints reflect
broader patterns of abuse on the Southwest Border of the U.S.”
ACLU of Texas Senior Staff Attorney Edgar Saldivar. “DHS should
take a serious look into its agencies’ policies and practices that
dispossess non-citizens, including asylum seekers, of their most
basic belongings.
Shaking down
poor individuals and depriving them of their valuables prior to
deporting them is inconsistent with our values and the constitutional
principles we hold dearly.”