by Christopher Zoukis
A report from The Guardian reveals that the United States government paid out more than $60 million over a 12-year period to settle claims of violence by Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) agents.
Adding in settlements related to employment and property claims raises the total to more than $177 million.
The settlements resulted from claims made between October 2005 and July 2017. More than $9 million was paid out to settle at least 20 wrongful death claims brought against CBP. According to The Guardian, the wrongful death incidents involved shootings, beatings, tasings, and vehicle collisions.
Around $47 million was paid out for damages resulting from the reckless driving of border patrol agents. According to the report, “a review of 40 cases with available court records found six crashes which were deadly and 18 that cited grave injuries including amputations and disability.”
Some of the settlements resulted from wrongful deportation claims. At least $6 million was paid out to settle various allegations of improper but non-deadly force and civil rights violations. Settlements involved allegations of beatings at the border, in the desert, in front of children, and at airports. Some settled cases involved allegations of immigrants having guns held to their heads.
Despite the egregious nature of many allegations settled by CBP, the payouts are lower than they should be, said ACLU attorney Chris Rickerd. That’s because the immigrants most often subject to injury at the hands of border patrol agents have few rights, while CBP agents enjoy extraordinary police powers.
“Even in some cases of the most obvious harms, when a policy has been breached and there’s been a deep injury, where in the municipal context you’d see large awards, because of the amount of suffering or extent of misconduct, in the border patrol context, it’s very rare,” he said.
Customs and Border Protection employs about 60,000 individuals, 20,000 of whom are border patrol agents. According to The Guardian, CBP is the largest and most funded federal law enforcement agency. Border patrol agents have jurisdiction in all areas of the country that are within 100 miles of the border. In all, this zone encompasses two out of every three Americans, 12 states, and nine of the 10 largest cities in the country.
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