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If you file a complaint with Border Patrol, don’t expect the agency to act to address it.

A report released on Tuesday looked at 809 complaints of alleged abuse filed from January 2009 to January 2012. Of the complaints where a formal decision was issued, which included accusations of physical, sexual and verbal abuse, 97 percent resulted in “no action taken.” In addition, 40 percent of the total cases are still pending investigation.

The statistics, obtained by the American Immigration Council, depict an agency where serious accusations — the merits of which remain unknown — have been hampered by “chronic inaction.”

“Taken as a whole, the data indicate the need for a stronger system of incentives (both positive and negative) for Border Patrol agents to abide by the law, respect legal rights, and refrain from abusive conduct,” the report reads.


Source: American Immigration Council

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that oversees Border Patrol, did not respond to a request for comment. But an official told The New York Times that the numbers did not represent a systematic failure.

“CBP is committed to ensuring that our agency is able to execute its challenging missions while preserving the human rights and dignity of those with whom we come in contact,” Kevin McAleenan, acting deputy commissioner for the agency, told the Times.


The vast majority of the complaints — 78 percent — cited physical abuse or excessive force as the problem. In one of the more jarring accusations, a pregnant woman says that a Border Patrol agent kicked her in the stomach while attempting to apprehend her, causing her to miscarry. Other complaints cite forced sex and improper strip searches.

Source: American Immigration Council

Logically, more accusations came from parts of the border that appear to have higher levels of unauthorized traffic. Thirty-five percent of the complaints originated in Arizona’s Tucson sector, which also had the highest numbers of apprehensions during the years in question.


The Border Patrol has been scrutinized for its use of force policy, which allows agents to employ deadly force in response to rock throwing along the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have killed 24 people in the last four years, eight of whom were allegedly throwing rocks, according to the Arizona Republic.

Among those killed were a 16-year-old Mexican boy, shot 10 times across the border in 2012 after an alleged rock throwing incident.

In another case that year, a man with his family in a park on the Mexican side of the border was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent, again after alleged rock throwing.


In March, the agency tightened the rules around use of force, telling agents to first seek cover in response to thrown objects. Deadly force, however, is still permitted if a rock poses the risk of death or serious injury.

Recommendations from the authors of the report called for more transparency and easier channels to file complaints against Border Patrol.

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.