Immigration News 2014: Overwhelmed Border Patrol Accused of Racism, Sexual Abuse; Agents Prevented From Speaking to Media
As the government continues to be scrutinized for its handling of the situation, the Border Patrol has become the first target since they first encounter the undocumented migrants and process them through the system while holding them in various stations along the border.
The large number of children and families crossing has put a strain on the Texas facilities available to the Border Patrol, which led to them sending some of the families to Arizona. However, the facilities in Texas continue to be overcrowded.
The Washington Post recorded a video discretely of the situation in the McAllen, Texas Border Patrol station, and it is dire. Families are held inside the garage since the holding cells are full with those sick separated by only yellow police tape. However, the situation has also led to abuse by Border Patrol agents.
Five immigrant advocacy organizations have filed complaints with the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol, accusing the law enforcement agency of physically and sexually abusing 116 children in their custody.
According to the Nation, many children reported death threats, beatings, and racist and sexually charged comments by Border Patrol officers. One girl reported having an officer "violently spread her legs" and grab her genitalia while a teenage boy was put in a stress position for twenty minutes as punishment for laughing.
The organizations that filed the complaint in behalf of the children are the National Immigrant Justice Center, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and Americans for Immigrant Justice. They filed their complaint with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, as well as the Office of the Inspector General.
Though the Border Patrol has released a statement saying that it will always ensure the safety of the children under their protection, the largest law enforcement organization in the country may have been instructed to not speak with the media.
An email obtained by The Associated Press revealed that assistant chief patrol agent Eligio "Lee" Pena instructed his officers to not speak with the media whether while on or off duty unless it had been approved by superiors. The email also warned against reporters that may disguise themselves though provided no possible scenarios where that could happen.
The AP approached Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske and asked him about the email. He told the news agency he had no knowledge of such an email being sent out. Soon after assuming his position, he vowed for greater transparency in the agency.
"I am not a fan of telling people not to talk," he told the AP.
Nonetheless, the media will continue to scrutinize the Border Patrol for as long as the number of children crossing the border increases. The law enforcement agency holds thousands of families and is scrambling to accommodate the rising number of migrants in already limited facilities. Transparency is key in helping the nation understand what is happening at the border while the administration tries to send the children back home.
Subscribe to Latin Post!
Sign up for our free newsletter for the Latest coverage!