Border Agents Abusive: Suits

Lawyers criticize 'culture of impunity' at Customs and Border Protection

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 13, 2013 10:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – US border agents are being accused of a series of abuses around the country, in what immigration advocates are calling a "culture of impunity" at Customs and Border Protection, reports the USA Today. The 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuits range from a 4-year-old New York girl who was prohibited from re-entering the country after a trip to Guatemala because her parents are illegal immigrants to a 63-year-old woman reportedly kept in a car for eight hours without food or water. "I don't think these are isolated cases," says the director of one advocacy group.

In one of the more egregious-sounding cases, four people claim they were kept in a freezing, bed-less, toilet-less cell that agents called the "hielera" (meaning "icebox") for up to six days while awaiting deportation hearings in Texas. "Based on having heard this from many, many people, and having each of them describe the same temperatures, it became clear to us that they didn't just have a great air-conditioning system," says their lawyer. Advocacy groups say that the growth of the CBP to 21,000 agents in 2012 from just 4,000 in 1993 has exacerbated the agency's problems. A CBP spokesperson said the organization does not "tolerate misconduct or abuse."

In this Oct. 2, 2012 file photo, US Customs and Border Protection officers and other law enforcement drive the roads in Bisbee, Ariz.
In this Oct. 2, 2012 file photo, US Customs and Border Protection officers and other law enforcement drive the roads in Bisbee, Ariz.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
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