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ACLU-NM - Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Living in New Mexicos 100 Mile Zone 2015

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:
MAY 2015


Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

In addition to the border residents who came forward with their testimonials, we thank the many
community leaders, educators, advocates, organizers and professionals who welcomed the ACLU of
New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights staff and provided space for Know Your Rights
education and dialogue in their homes, community centers, places of worship and classrooms.
We also want to thank the Four Freedoms Fund, the EMA Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation.
Without their generous support, our work to bring justice and defend human dignity in border
communities would not be possible. Finally, we thank Robert Yee who produced the short videos that
accompany this report, which allow readers to hear directly from community members who came
forward to report their concerns of abuse. Visit us on Facebook, Twitter and on the ACLU-NM web
page for this report to watch the videos and share:
Please Note: Where requested to do so, we have used pseudonyms and omitted specific identifying
factors and locations to protect the identity of those who came forward to report abuse but who
wanted to remain anonymous.
Cover photo: Jorge, a student at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM travels through a Border Patrol
checkpoint every time he goes home to his family who lives near Hatch, NM, a 45-minute drive north from Las Cruces.
Jorge holds an orange gerbera daisy, a symbol of revitalization, in front of the checkpoint on State Highway 185 as
part of the “Revitalize Not Militarize” campaign. The campaign seeks to encourage common sense investment into border
communities that improves the quality of life for border residents while improving trade for the nation.

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

Guilty Until Proven Innocent:


he principle of fundamental fairness for all—one of our most cherished values—is enshrined in
both the U.S. Constitution and international law. In many American communities, however, Border
Patrol agents treat residents they encounter as “guilty until proven innocent” in the community
they call home.
One New Mexican used these exact words to describe the feeling of traveling through a Border
Patrol interior checkpoint. The sentiment reflects a shared experience by many of the more than fifty
complaints that community members reported to our office in 2014. These concerned citizens, many of
whom felt racially profiled, reported that U.S. Customs and
Border Protection (CBP) officers or agents—the umbrella
agency that includes the Border Patrol—unfairly singled
them out for unjustified stops, questioning, searches and other Our nation is currently soul
abuses as they went about their daily lives: driving to work,
searching as police
commuting to school, or even while providing life-saving
brutality… and
emergency care.
In the past decade, Congressional and Presidential initiatives
focused solely on enforcement transformed CBP into our
nation’s largest law enforcement agency, and one that
operates with little meaningful oversight or accountability.
Now with more than 21,000 agents nationwide, Border
Patrol views itself as a paramilitary unit that can operate
“outside of constitutional constraints.”
Our nation is currently soul searching as police brutality by
overly militarized departments and discriminatory policing of
communities of color tear apart the fabric of communities.
Sadly, this too is the story for border communities, where the
federal government too often condones the same tactics used
by Border Patrol that it condemns for local police.

discriminatory policing…
tear apart the fabric of
communities. Sadly, this too is
the story for border
communities, where the
federal government too often
condones the same tactics
used by Border Patrol that it
condemns for local police.

When the Department of Justice recently took a stand against racial profiling by federal and local
police, it effectively exempted Border Patrol from the same standards. And while the Obama
Administration rightfully seeks to identify police best practices, such as transparent data collection to
increase accountability to communities for police departments with a history of racial profiling, they
remain silent about implementing these same reforms to stop discriminatory policing by agencies
under their own roof. Border Patrol’s failure to collect any data on stops or searches not resulting in
arrest makes it impossible to detect or deter unlawful and counter-productive conduct by agents.
Through community surveys and reported incidents of abuse, this briefing tells the story of how
implementing military-style policing in our nation’s safest communities and making exceptions to
racially profile not only leads to discriminatory policing that is unconstitutional and offensive to

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

American values of fairness and equality, but also hurts public safety as an ineffective policing
strategy that drives a wedge between communities and law enforcement.
No one should live in fear of law enforcement in their own community. The voices heard in this report
join a chorus nationwide who demand trust, transparency and accountability from law enforcement. As
Congress, the Obama Administration, and the American people consider nationwide police reforms,
we must not exclude our nation’s largest law enforcement agency, CBP, from the discussion.
Meaningful action to implement oversight and accountability mechanisms at CBP is long overdue.
Fundamental fairness and the safety and freedom of our communities is at stake.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights (RCBR) stands
with border communities to defend and
protect America’s constitutional guarantees
of equality and justice for all families to live
freely, safely and with dignity.
In “Know Your Rights” presentations, we
inform community members gathered in
classrooms or places of worship of the rights
afforded by the U.S. Constitution to all
individuals regardless of immigration status,
such as the right to be free from arbitrary
search and seizure and treated fairly with
due process. These presentations create
dialogue and help identify incidents where
border and immigration enforcement policies
and practices threaten our basic rights.

Sister Maria Teresa at a community meeting
in Chaparral, NM

From January – July 2014, the RCBR
provided 54 presentations reaching 1,105 residents throughout Southern New Mexico and El Paso,
TX. We also administered an optional survey to 334 individuals asking attendees to describe any
recent experiences, both positive and negative, they, a family member or a friend had with local or
federal law enforcement. The survey also asked attendees if they trusted law enforcement and if they
felt comfortable traveling through U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.
In 2014, the RCBR also deployed four Know Your Rights checkpoints to inform motorists and
pedestrians of their rights while passing through CBP ports of entry or Border Patrol interior
checkpoints. At these direct actions, we held signs
immediately after Border Patrol checkpoints or CBP ports of
entry that invited community members to stop for know your
rights materials and to report abuse.

'Know Your Rights' Checkpoint
on I-25

In total, the RCBR collected 56 reports of abuse that inform
the findings and recommendations in this briefing. Our
deepest gratitude goes to those who stepped forward to tell
their story, many of whom expressed very real fears of law
enforcement. For this reason and based on the consent of
those who agreed to tell their story for this campaign, many
of the names in this briefing have been changed. Their stories
represent the experiences of many people living in Southern
New Mexico.

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

The testimonies in this briefing illustrate a broad range of abusive behavior by CBP officers and
agents: racial profiling, unjustified detentions and searches, verbal abuse, intimidation, physical abuse,
and interfering with the delivery of emergency medical treatment that puts lives at risk and results in
unnecessary deaths. Some of these abuses occurred at ports of
entry run by CBP, while the majority of abuses occurred at the
hands of Border Patrol agents who widely patrol communities
through roving patrols and interior checkpoints.
Ninety percent of abuses
Border Patrol claims incredible authority to stop, question and
… were reported by
search individuals within a “reasonable distance” of our
U.S. citizens… about 81
international borders. Federal regulations created several
percent… considered
decades ago and without any public debate or scrutiny defined
this distance as 100 miles. Based largely on this authority, Border
themselves Hispanic or
Patrol agents operate interior checkpoints where they require all
motorists, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, to stop for
questioning about their citizenship or immigration status. Agents
also conduct roving patrols in communities throughout this 100mile zone and beyond. Within 25 miles of the border, agents even claim the authority to enter private
land, not dwellings, without a warrant. The map on page six illustrates the 100-mile zone in New
Mexico, with shading to show how far into the interior this zone extends. The red stars show the
location of Border Patrol checkpoints.
As a result of this authority, Border Patrol agents’ abusive behavior increasingly affects residents not
engaged in any wrongdoing in locations far removed from the physical border. Worse yet, federal
guidance on profiling from the Department of Justice in 2003, and most recently in December 2014,
largely exempt CBP and allow the agency to write its own rules as to when, how and where their
officers and agents should be allowed to profile.

Breakdown of Cases
Denial entry;
health care


Page 4

Abuses Roving

Abuses Ports
of Entry

Ninety percent of the abuses in this
report at checkpoints, ports of entry and
during roving patrols were reported by
U.S. citizens and about 81 percent were
of individuals who consider themselves
Hispanic or Latino. Community members,
whose accounts can be found in the
following sections, profoundly feel
singled out due to Border Patrol’s license
to racially profile innocent residents.
Isaac, a proud El Pasoan, began to
notice trends and feel profiled once he
began commuting weekly through
Border Patrol checkpoints for his business
buying and selling motorcycles. He
estimates that 80 percent of agents’
questions have nothing to do with his U.S.
citizenship, and agents refer him to

Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

secondary for searches with dogs and x-ray technology nearly half of the time.
Border Patrol agents pulled Jimena over in May 2014 after she picked up her brother who was
walking to work. Despite the fact U.S. citizens are not required to carry proof of citizenship, Jimena
showed agents her U.S. passport and her children’s birth certificates. Her brother also carries his U.S.
passport. Jimena explained that agents frequently stop her brother while walking down the street; she
believes agents stop him frequently “because he has very dark skin.”
In addition to profiling, community members also reported concerns that Border Patrol agents’
practices undermine access to critical health services. In one egregious example, Border Patrol agents
pulled over an ambulance transporting a patient in critical condition on an EKG monitor because the
ambulance went around a checkpoint with lights and sirens blaring. Agents detained the ambulance
for seven minutes to confirm they “[had] a body on-board,” causing a very real risk of heart attack
for the patient.
Agents frequently pursued, interrogated and even demanded to search first responders who transport
patients through the Border Patrol checkpoint that separates Columbus, NM, from the nearest hospital
in Deming, NM. When asked if searches could be done elsewhere than the hospital parking lot, agents
responded that “we’ll do it any place and any time we want.”
CBP policy prohibits agents from taking enforcement action or patrolling at “sensitive community
locations,” like schools and hospitals, absent written approval from a supervisor. Yet Border Patrol
agents often ignore that policy. Community members reported seeing agents patrol, park and even
enter schools in Las Cruces, NM, the hospital in Deming, NM, or low cost, community clinics like the Ben
Archer health clinic in Doña Ana, NM. In all these cases, first responders and community members
expressed grave concern that Border Patrol behavior stokes fear in the community that prevents
community members from seeking medical care and community services that maintain quality of life.
Roughly 354,500 New Mexicans live within the 100-mile zone of the U.S.-Mexico border. According
to U.S. Census Bureau data, 60 percent of the families in this region consider themselves Hispanic or
Latino and about 50 percent speak a language other than English. For New Mexicans, bringing
greater oversight and accountability to CBP is critical to rebuild community trust for individuals like
those featured in this report who feel singled out in their own community and home. More than a
quarter of survey respondents said they do not feel comfortable traveling through a Border Patrol
checkpoint. Respondents who answered the surveys in Spanish tended to be more uncomfortable at
checkpoints (35 percent) than those who answered the surveys in English (24 percent).
The Obama Administration, CBP leadership and members of Congress should prioritize
implementation of the recommendations provided at the end of this briefing. These include a strict ban
on racial profiling and other discriminatory policing, nationwide implementation of data collection to
detect and deter abuse, a uniform DHS complaint process, enhanced training, and equipping all CBP
officers and agents, particularly Border Patrol, with body-worn cameras paired with privacy

Page 5

100-mile Zone in Southern New Mexico

Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

Agents profile and detain residents for unjustified questioning and
searches at interior checkpoints
Isaac, a Hispanic U.S. citizen and resident of El
Paso, TX, travels frequently in West Texas and
Southern New Mexico for his small business
selling motorcycles. He estimates that 80 percent
of Border Patrol agents’ questions at interior
checkpoints have nothing to do with his
citizenship. Instead they ask questions like,
“Where are you going?” and “What is your
address?” Agents even looked at e-mails in his
phone to confirm his destination for work. Isaac
also estimates that Border Patrol agents refer
him to secondary for searches every other time
Isaac, owns a small business in
El Paso, TX
he passes through. Isaac travels for work
weekly, and Border Patrol detentions at interior
checkpoints have left him feeling humiliated, profiled and caused him to lose business by making him
late for appointments.
His experience reflects a widely reported feeling throughout border communities: Border Patrol
agents treat you or your friends and family differently based on appearance. In one study,
community members of Arivaca, AZ monitored a local checkpoint for over 100 hours and recorded
2,379 recorded vehicle stops. They found Border Patrol agents were 26 times more likely to ask
Latino motorists for identification and 20 times more likely to send them to secondary than White
RCBR staff documented 14 cases of abuse at interior checkpoints, including profiling and prolonged
detentions at interior checkpoints to subject these individuals to aggressive and unnecessary
questioning not pertaining to citizenship status and to unjustified, potentially damaging searches with
invasive technologies.
Marianne, a U.S. citizen, feels anxious when she passes through Border Patrol interior checkpoints
throughout Southern New
Mexico, especially when
she travels with her son.
Marianne is white, nonHispanic, but says her 16year-old son, Luis, has a
darker complexion that
reflects his father’s
ethnicity. “When he’s sitting
with me, they ask me
questions, but only look at
him. [In the border states]
we’re treated differently
from other U.S. citizens and
that doesn’t seem fair.” Her
son also travels frequently
with his father’s family to
Marianne and son, Luis, live in
Las Vegas. Everyone in the
Las Cruces, NM
car on those trips will be
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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

Hispanic, U.S. citizens. He notes the difference when traveling with his father, adding that it “feels
faster when I’m with my mom.”
Eugene frequently faces unnecessary questioning and requests to search his vehicle. Sometimes, agents
don’t even bother to inquire about his citizenship and instead demand he open his trunk. He’s Hispanic,
a U.S. citizen, and refuses to consent to searches or answer unnecessary questions. On one occasion,
after Eugene refused an agent’s questions and request to search his vehicle, the Border Patrol agent
stated, “You’re just a bad citizen.”
Border Patrol searches in secondary inspection can be lengthy and invasive. Community members
reported detentions lasting up to one hour for agents to x-ray their vehicles with backscatter
technology, inspect their motor and gas tank, and run K-9 units around their vehicle. Agents and their
dogs rifle through personal belongings and the interior of vehicles. When damages to a vehicle occur,
CBP frequently denies financial responsibility even after a formal complaint has been filed.
Even before one arrives at a checkpoint or is referred to secondary, extensive cameras and
technologies document the
movements of every motorist. Jan
and her partner initially changed
doctors but eventually chose to
move from their retirement home in
Silver City, NM, to avoid
checkpoints after Jan experienced
a searing pain in her ear where she
has a surgically implanted titanium
hearing aid. The pain reminded her
of previous experiences with
scanning equipment and raised
questions and concern that Border
Patrol subjects motorists to scanning
technology without warning or
posted notification.
Surveillance technologies at checkpoints include
None of the individuals who
license plater readers and backskatter x-ray
reported concerns at interior
checkpoints were engaged in illicit
activity. But in all of these cases, Border Patrol agents detained individuals as they went about their
daily lives to buy groceries, attend school, work, or visit their doctor, and subjected them to
aggressive, intimidating questioning and searches—often conducted without apparent suspicion of any
wrongdoing and on the basis of their perceived race or ethnicity.

Border Patrol agents harass and profile residents during roving patrols
Victoria, a 24-year-old lawful permanent resident, feels constantly harassed by Border Patrol agents.
She lives near the border, but works as an administrative assistant at a farm located more than 50
miles from the international boundary and north of Border Patrol interior checkpoints. Agents
conducting roving patrols stop her at least once a week on her way to work. Victoria recognizes the
agents who pull her over and who ask her where she was born, where she lives, and where she’s
going. She finally built up the courage to ask why they stop her so frequently. In spite of the fact that
her car has never been searched, the agent responded that they had information that her vehicle had
been used to transport illegal substances or people. In March 2014, Border Patrol and ICE agents
surrounded her house, entered her property and demanded to see identification. They left without
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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

giving her an explanation for the action. In April and May of 2014, Border Patrol agents drove by
her home almost daily. Victoria and her mother, who live together and have never been in trouble
with the law, now live in constant fear, not knowing why they are under surveillance.
RCBR staff documented ten cases of Border Patrol agents profiling residents, both U.S. citizens and
non-citizens, and conducting unjustified and unnecessary stops, searches and uses of force during
roving patrols.
Jimena, a Hispanic woman, was driving to work in Columbus, NM,
with her two daughters on or about May 29, 2014, when a Border
Patrol agent stopped her. The agent made a quick U-turn after
Jimena pulled over to pick up her brother, who was walking to work
and had asked for a ride if she happened to pass by. Jimena, her
two daughters and her brother are all U.S. citizens.
Jimena’s brother asked the agent to let her go on her way so she
would not be late for work. The agent ignored the request and
asked Jimena, her daughters and her brother about their
immigration status and where Jimena worked. While U.S. citizens
are not required to carry proof of citizenship, Jimena provided the
agent both her U.S. passport and daughters’ birth certificates. He
also demanded Jimena’s brother provide his social security number
and questioned him about where he was born. He too showed the
agent his U.S. passport. After 30 minutes, the agent allowed them to
leave. Jimena explains this isn’t the first time Border Patrol has
stopped her brother while walking down the street. She believes
agents stop him frequently “because he has very dark skin.”
Ricardo came to New Mexico from California to visit his brother and
father in September 2012. As he and his brother—both U.S.
citizens—left a convenience store with sodas they had purchased,
Border Patrol agents jumped out of an unmarked van and detained
them at gunpoint for questioning and searches. Now he’s afraid to
return to visit Deming, NM.


In all but one of the
cases … individuals
targeted for stops and
searches were Hispanic
or Latino. Only one of
the individuals stopped
was taken into custody
for possible violation of
federal immigration law;
the rest were U.S.
citizens or lawful
residents. In almost all of
these cases, agents
provided no reason for
a stop or search…

Similarly, Sara is frustrated and tired of her experiences with Border Patrol. “Every time I see [Border
Patrol] I get shaking,” she explains. She owns a motel located less than ten miles north of the U.S.Mexico border. At least once a month and sometimes several times in one week, Border Patrol or ICE
agents come to her hotel and harass her guests. Border Patrol will pick hotel rooms at random, knock
on the doors, and question guests without her permission. On one occasion, the agents requested
information on a guest staying in a specific room, saying they followed tracks from the border to that
In all but one of the cases reported, individuals targeted for stops and searches were Hispanic or
Latino. Only one of the individuals stopped was taken into custody for a possible violation of federal
immigration law; the rest were U.S. citizens or lawful residents. In almost all of these cases, agents
provided no reason for a stop or search, and in limited circumstances, agents’ sole justification
included reports of a suspicious vehicle.

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

Against policy, agents monitor clinics, schools and stop ambulances
On May 30, 2014,
Border Patrol pulled over
an ambulance after it
passed through an interior
checkpoint traveling
northbound on Highway
11 between Columbus
and Deming, NM, with
both emergency lights
and sirens blaring.
Emergency responders
were transporting a
patient in critical condition
on an EKG monitor.
Despite these obvious
signs of an emergency
situation, Bill, a Captain
with the fire department,
Ken, 20-year veteran and Chief of the
reported that agents
Fire Deparment in Columbus, NM
detained the ambulance
for seven minutes to look inside, stating, “Yep, you got a body
on-board.” The delay, according to Bill, created a real risk of a heart attack for the patient.
This practice not only places in jeopardy the health of a patient, but it also defies a nationwide
directive issued by CBP in January 2013 to curtail enforcement actions at or near sensitive community
locations. This policy established clear prohibitions on patrolling or monitoring schools, churches,
hospitals, and community health or educational centers absent written approval by the Chief Patrol
Agent. RCBR staff, however, documented nine cases involving Border Patrol agents within the El Paso
Sector, which includes all of New Mexico, patrolling sensitive community locations.
Testimonies include Border Patrol agents pulling over ambulances, impeding and interrogating first
responders as they deliver patients to the emergency room of hospitals, demanding to search
ambulances in hospital parking lots, or parking next to and surveilling community health centers.
Reports also included several instances of Border Patrol agents patrolling slowly around schools and
one incident where Border Patrol agents subjected elementary school children to canine searches as
they got off their school bus near a port of entry.
Daniel, a paramedic, reported that in March 2014, Border Patrol agents pursued his ambulance and
patient all the way to the patient’s room in Mimbres Memorial Hospital in Deming, NM. A Border
Patrol agent told him that they have orders to pull over an ambulance if they don't get a call from
central dispatch before the ambulance passes through the Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 11
between Columbus and Deming, NM. Daniel directed his driver to not stop driving in order to avoid
putting the patients’ health at risk.
On numerous occasions, Ken—a 20-year veteran and Chief of the fire department—reported that
Border Patrol agents asked to search ambulances transporting patients from Columbus to the hospital
in Deming. On one occasion, agents asked to conduct a search while emergency personnel were
“backing up to the [hospital] door with the patient still on a gurney.” And on yet another occasion,
when EMT personnel asked if a search could be conducted away from the hospital to avoid

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

undermining community trust in first responders, a Border Patrol agent responded “we’ll do it any
place and any time we want.”
Maria Fernanda reported Border Patrol vehicles parked outside the Ben Archer clinic in Doña Ana,
NM, a low-cost, community-based health clinic. This occurred once or twice a week for several months
prior to July 2014. According to Maria, several of her friends fear attending their doctor's
appointments because of this practice.
Finally, community residents reported Border Patrol vehicles patrolling slowly around or parking
outside schools. Adrian saw Border Patrol vehicles slowly patrolling the streets near his home and
adjacent to the Loma Heights Elementary School in Las Cruces several times a week over the span of
several months prior to March 2014. Marianne and her son, Luis, spotted Border Patrol agents on the
campus of Centennial High School on three separate occasions from December 2013 to March 2014.
On March 11, 2014, they noticed a Border Patrol agent parked his vehicle in a position that “looked
like a perfect place to take license plates” as parents leave school with their kids. “It really creeped
me out,” Marianne added.

Officers intimidate and abuse lawful travelers at ports of entry
In January 2014, Adriana and Valeria, sisters and both Hispanic U.S. citizens, returned to the United
States through the Columbus, NM, port of entry when the CBP officer conducting their inspection
crossed the line of professional standards. Each sister had one of their toddler-age children in the
vehicle. The officer questioned Adriana and Valeria whether they kidnapped their children, how much
it cost to buy them, and ultimately asked, “Did it hurt when you had them?” They were then referred to
secondary for an embarrassing search, where CBP ordered they dump out personal items from their
purse in plain view of onlookers.
Just one month later while crossing at the same port of entry, a CBP officer repeatedly questioned one
of the sister’s 12-year-old daughters, asking “why are you laughing?” Her daughter, who was smiling
but not laughing or intending disrespect, left feeling intimidated by the officer.
RCBR staff documented 12 cases of CBP officers intimidating lawful travelers at ports of entry,
including U.S. citizens, by subjecting individuals to verbal abuse, intensive questioning, uses of force
and abusive searches that damaged personal property. CBP regularly provides no explanation of the
reasons or outcomes of their investigations.
In February 2014, Paola, a U.S. citizen, reported that twice as she was travelling southbound through
the Columbus port of entry into Mexico,
CBP subjected her to invasive questioning,
verbal abuse and an unjustified search. In
the first incident, a CBP official
immediately addressed her with rude
comments. When she wrote the officer’s
name down, the official ordered Paola out
of her car for x-ray searches of her
vehicle. She noted the officer didn’t even
bother to speak respectfully to her in the
presence of a supervisor.
Later, on February 20, a CBP officer
asked Paola’s daughter to show her teeth
after extensive questioning about her
travels to El Paso for dentist appointments.
From Paola’s perspective, “They ask one

Port of Entry in Columbus, NM

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:

question after another… so many questions that are too
personal. And even when you answer they still aren’t satisfied.”
Paola added that for a couple weeks following her complaints,
CBP officers at the port always referred her to secondary
inspection for additional screening.
Helena, a U.S. citizen from the Midwest, retired to Columbus,
NM, where she crosses the port of entry regularly to provide
humanitarian aid. On November 8, 2013, a CBP officer
detained her with Christmas gifts for friends and family to
question her extensively about the presents and her work with a
humanitarian organization and to search her vehicle, including
the gifts. On her next trip through the port three days later, CBP
sent her to secondary for a search. When asked why, the CBP
officer stated it was due to a problem with her passport. After
filing a complaint, DHS provided Helena a “redress control
number” and instructed her to use it when she books air travel.
DHS, including CBP, never explained to Helena why or how her
passport ended up flagged for additional screening.


Officers pulled her from
the vehicle she was riding
in, handcuffed her, and
initiated a pat down and
search. When Maria tried
to explain to officers that
the search while
handcuffed was hurting
her, they told her to shut
up. After an hour of
detention and taking her
fingerprints, CBP officers
told her she was free to go
without any explanation.

Finally, CBP officers used physical force against lawful
permanent resident Maria on May 26, 2014. Officers pulled
her from the vehicle she was riding in, handcuffed her, and
initiated a pat down and search. When Maria tried to explain
to officers that the search while handcuffed was hurting her,
they told her to shut up. After an hour of detention and taking
her fingerprints, CBP officers told her she was free to go without any explanation. She, like others who
reported incidents, felt intimidated and affected psychologically by the experience.
Ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border divide truly bi-national communities, where residents cross
frequently for daily errands, doctors’ appointments, work, or to visit family. When CBP officers abuse
lawful travelers, including U.S. citizens, through intimidating detentions and searches, many leave
fearful of crossing again to the detriment of important cultural and economic exchanges that benefit
not only local communities, but the nation.

CBP officers deny entry to people seeking emergency medical care
In 2012, EMT personnel responded to the Columbus, NM, port of entry to provide emergency care to
a woman who arrived at the port in labor. CBP denied her entry and emergency transport to the
nearest hospital in Deming, NM. Ken was on scene that day and later found out that the woman’s
baby died when she was forced to give birth in her family car while her husband frantically drove to
Ciudad Juarez.
RCBR staff documented four cases in the past two years where CBP officers denied entry to
individuals seeking medical care at the port of entry in Columbus, NM. The nearest hospital for
residents of Palomas, Mexico, is located in Deming, NM. At the request of CBP, central dispatch often
calls upon emergency responders from Columbus to provide emergency assistance at the port of entry
and transport the patients to Deming. However, the RCBR found that CBP officers—who are not
trained medical professionals—have not been consistent in determining who would be allowed into
the country to receive emergency treatment and who wouldn’t be, placing lives at risk and potentially
resulting in the death of women and children in at least two cases.

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent:


“It’s about who’s on duty,
their personalities,”…
many CBP officers see
themselves as “above
reproach and above the

Under a joint agreement between the states of Chihuahua and
New Mexico, CBP officers should allow emergency transport to
the nearest hospital in Deming for people who arrive at the port
of entry with a note from the clinic in Palomas, Mexico, explaining
their need for emergency care. First responders noted an
apparent shift in practice shortly after the agreement went into
effect, however, where CBP officers exercise significant discretion
as to whether or not to allow emergency transport.

On July 21, 2014, CBP officers initially refused emergency
transport for a woman who approached the port of entry in
labor, having seizures, and in critical condition. After subsequently
 reporting to the clinic in Palomas, where she was informed they
were unable to provide adequate treatment, the woman returned to the port in worse condition with
the help of a bystander who saw her collapse. CBP officers then allowed emergency transport to
In May 2014, CBP officers called central dispatch requesting emergency medical services at the
Columbus port of entry for a woman who had arrived with her husband. While on scene providing
care, the woman expressed five separate times to both first responders and CBP officers that she had
experienced domestic violence. Bill, the first responder on scene, called the sheriff’s office as required
by mandatory reporting requirements. The CBP officer on scene became very upset that he made a
report to local sheriffs and chastised both the woman and Bill. The officer’s demeanor raised concern
about her commitment to provide due process to potential victims of violence.
First responders find puzzling that rather than rely on their professional opinion, CBP officers decide
to deny entry in cases where CBP determined it necessary to call for emergency care in the first
place. Ken quipped, “It baffles me—why did [CBP] call us?” Bill described an incident in November
2013 where CBP called for emergency care at the port for a woman with diabetes. CBP officers
eventually refused to allow emergency transport to the nearest hospital in Deming, NM. He later
learned that the woman fell into a diabetic coma and died while en route to Ciudad Juarez.
Reflecting on this case, he opined, “It’s about who’s on duty, their personalities,” adding that many
CBP officers see themselves as “above reproach and above the law.”

No one should live in fear or feel constantly monitored, harassed, and treated with suspicion by law
enforcement in his or her own community, and certainly not because of the color of their skin or the
community in which they live. At a time of national engagement on issues of police accountability,
Border Patrol agents who view border community residents as “guilty until proven innocent” and
whose hostile treatment of individuals communicates blatant disregard for their dignity should be of
great concern in the work to restore trust and accountability between law enforcement and
Border communities are among the safest communities in the nation and celebrate remarkable
diversity. Too frequently, however, Border Patrol subjects residents simply going about their daily lives
to unjustified harassment, profiling, and other abuse. The abuses documented in this report run
contrary to our most deeply held values of fairness and freedom and damage public safety by
sowing seeds of mistrust between whole communities and law enforcement.
In this context, it is right for border community residents, local elected officials, faith leaders, business
leaders and local law enforcement to question Congressional proposals to endlessly expand military-

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like enforcement initiatives, particularly when Border Patrol agents are already “tripping over
Border communities are calling for revitalization, and our request is simple: the nation’s largest law
enforcement agency should be held to the highest professional standards. The public increasingly
recognizes the deadly consequences of Border Patrol’s culture of abuse and the agency’s failure to
implement best practices or meaningful oversight and accountability mechanisms. The Obama
Administration, agency officials, and other policy makers must include CBP in the ongoing national
dialogue to address police abuse and militarization and insist upon the same police best practices at
CBP as at any other agency. Failure to rein in the Border Patrol and turn the page on this shameful
chapter in our history of discriminatory policing would condemn yet another generation of border
residents to live with an agency that currently flouts constitutional protections for the tens of millions
who call border communities home.

We urge Members of Congress, the Administration, and DHS/CBP headquarters and local leadership
to promptly implement the following reforms developed in consultation with community members like
those featured in this report.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must:

Issue a clear prohibition on the use of race, ethnicity and other protected characteristics under
existing Department of Justice guidance as a factor in law enforcement, including but not limited
to routine investigatory stops and detentions and searches, except where a reliable, current
specific suspect description exists or where there is an affirmatively required statutory
determination like asylum eligibility.


Implement nationwide, comprehensive data collection regarding Border Patrol roving patrol and
checkpoint activities, including data related to all roving patrol stops, referrals to secondary
inspection areas at checkpoints, searches, the basis for all stops and/or searches as well as the
perceived race or ethnicity and immigration status or citizenship of the individuals stopped and/or


Publicly report aggregate data collected through the above recommendation to establish trust,
transparency and accountability to communities. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century
Policing recently highlighted, “To embrace a culture of transparency, law enforcement agencies
should make all department policies available for public review and regularly post on the
department’s website information about stops, summonses, arrests, reported crime and other law
enforcement data aggregated by demographics.”


Establish enhanced initial and annual refresher training for agents, in consultation with
independent law enforcement experts and community stakeholders to include nongovernmental
organizations, in the area of Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures,
as well as prohibitions on racial profiling under the Fourteenth Amendment. Training should,
among other topics, address the existence and impact of arbitrary classifications, stereotyping,
and implicit bias.


Equip all CBP personnel interacting with the public, particularly the Border Patrol, with body-worn
cameras paired with privacy protections.


Reduce the zone of CBP operations to a maximum of 25 miles from a land or sea border, and
reduce the area where agents can enter private property without a warrant to 10 miles. CBP

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should conduct sector by sector analysis, as required by existing regulations, to determine whether
a shorter distance would be reasonable.

Create a transparent, uniform DHS process for receiving, processing and investigating all
complaints in multiple languages, to align with best practices and joint recommendations submitted
recently by nongovernmental organizations. Complaint processing must be transparent, thorough,
and prompt, with effective and public remedies for complainants where appropriate.


Post clear signage in multiple languages directing individuals to the uniform complaint process in
all CBP inspection and detention areas of ports of entry, stations, holding cells and checkpoints.
Officers and agents should be provided and required to carry business cards that identify the
officer/agent and provide instructions on how to file complaints. These cards should be given to all
persons with whom the officer or agent has a law enforcement encounter.


Clarify publicly CBP’s existing, nationwide directive severely curtailing enforcement actions at or
near sensitive community locations to prohibit enforcement actions inhibiting first responders absent
written approval by the Chief Patrol Agent or delegate. Agents must recognize and protect the
paramount value of human life and wellbeing by not interfering with ambulance personnel and
EMT staff when they are providing medical care and transport.


Respect existing agreements and/or the professional opinion of first responders at ports of entry
when determining whether to allow potentially life-saving medical transport to the nearest
hospital, including in the United States.


Provide refresher training to officers and agents about their obligation to protect and provide
due process to possible victims of crime, trafficking, and domestic violence or in need of asylum.
Training should instruct officers and agents to coordinate as appropriate with local law
enforcement agencies when reportable incidents or investigations arise.

Case summaries are available for review at the ACLU of New Mexico’s web page for this report:

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