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Immigration Rights Organization Sues Customs and Border Protection to Provide Information on Agent Abuses

united-states-637713_640The American Immigration Council, a nonprofit research and legal organization, recently filed a lawsuit demanding United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide information on their actions over the two years since records revealed the agency had taken “no action” in 97 percent of cases where agents committed acts of abuse. The organization calls on the Customs and Border Protection to respond to a long overdue request under the Freedom of Information Act filed in October 2015. The nonprofit also named the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency’s operations, as a co-defendant.

The lawsuit demands access to documents related to complaints filed against Customs and Border against dating back to 2012, as well as information on the procedures used by the agency to investigate and resolve these issues.

A previous FOIA request gave the Immigration Council information on more than 800 abuse complaints against Border Patrol agents filed between 2009 and 2012. With the data in hand, the organization was able to publish a 2014 report titled, “No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse.”

The report provides an exposé of how the agency allegedly disregarded up to 97 percent of abuse reports. Key takeaways include:

  • “Physical abuse” was the most common complaint, found in 40 percent of lodged abuse cases
  • “Excessive use of force” came second, found in 38 percent of reported cases

In its complaint, the Immigration Council said, “CBP’s failure to produce the requested records violates FOIA and is impending the Immigration Council’s efforts to assess and inform the public about CBP’s progress, or lack thereof, in developing meaningful and transparent procedures for investigating and resolving complaints of abuse of USBP agents.”

According to Immigration Council senior attorney Mary Kenney, the Border Patrol agency has a long history of not being held accountable for the misdemeanors of agents, even going as far as to protect them from public backlash.

Guillermo Cantor, Deputy Director of Research at the Immigration Council, notes how they’ve identified a number of trends that reveal a astonishing lack of oversight and accountability on the part of the agency. He adds that the Council’s immediate goal is to give the public the opportunity to see for themselves if any progress has been made in terms of how the CBP responds to and resolves abuse complaints against its agents.

The American Immigration Council is not the first group to take action against Custom and Border Protection. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a complaint naming 13 border patrol agents, urging an investigation on the alleged abuses made by these officers in border crossings in El Paso and New Mexico.

If you or anyone you know has encountered abusive treatment by agents of the CBP, we urge you to get in touch with Lyttle Law Firm immediately to discuss your legal options. Contact us at (512) 215.5225 to schedule a consultation.

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