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HoldCBPAccountable.org Launched to Expose Border-Related Abuse and Litigation

Released on Wed, Mar 26, 2014

An alliance of immigration advocacy groups announces the launch of HoldCBPAccountable.org, a website that catalogues lawsuits and administrative complaints brought against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties have joined forces to document litigation that exposes CBP abuses, including unlawful searches and seizures, removals based on coercion and misinformation, and the use of excessive and sometimes deadly force by Border Patrol agents and CBP officers.

Among the cases included on the website:

  • Laura Mireles, a U.S. citizen, works on the U.S. side of an international bridge in Brownsville, Texas. One day, she crossed into Mexico for 15 minutes to make a purchase. Upon her return, a CBP officer stopped Ms. Mireles and searched her car. The agent became agitated and reacted violently when Ms. Mireles questioned his reasons for searching her handbag. He grabbed her with both hands and threw her onto the ground with such force that her jeans ripped and she suffered a laceration to her knee and several cuts on her elbows; the officer then handcuffed her so tightly that the fire department later had to cut the handcuffs from her wrists. After being treated by paramedics, Ms. Mireles was released from custody without charges. Ms. Mireles seeks damages for the serious harm she suffered as a result of CBP’s unlawful actions.
  • In 2013, four women were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by Border Patrol agents. They were then taken to what the agents called a “hielera,” which is Spanish for “icebox” or “icemaker.” Hieleras are short-term holding cells which agents often maintain at very low temperatures. The women all describe cells in which dozens of detainees were crowded together. The cells had no beds, no chairs, and only a single toilet in plain view. The women were detained in the cells for as long as 13 days. All have filed administrative complaints for damages for the suffering they endured at the hands of CBP.
  • Gustavo Vargas was stopped by the Anacortes, Washington police, allegedly for failing to use his turn signal. He provided a valid license, registration and proof of insurance. Despite this, the police officer called Border Patrol to check Mr. Vargas’s immigration status. Although the Border Patrol agent found no history of immigration or criminal violations, he instructed the police officer to detain Mr. Vargas and subsequently placed him into immigration custody. Mr. Vargas was detained for almost ten weeks. He has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington seeking damages for his unlawful detention.

Details concerning these and other cases can be found at HoldCBPAccountable.org. The lawsuits currently posted were filed in courts across the country. Also included on the website are administrative complaints against CBP, documents received through Freedom of Information Act requests, and resources regarding CBP policies and procedures.

HoldCBPAccountable.org aims to reveal CBP’s widespread abuses against immigrants and U.S. citizens and ongoing efforts to promote greater accountability by one of the largest and fastest-growing law enforcement agencies in the United States.

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For press inquiries, contact Wendy Feliz at 202-507-7524 or wfeliz@immcouncil.org.

For more information, contact Seth Garfinkel at 202-507-7516 or sgarfinkel@immcouncil.org.

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