- In March, after the ACLU spoke of use-of-force deaths by Customs and Border Protection officials at a review of U.S. human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and hand-delivered a sign-on letter that was endorsed by more than 75 organizations and coalitions (including SBCC), the U.N. Human Rights Committee demanded in its final observations that the U.S. government improve reporting and conduct effective investigations of excessive use-of-force cases by CBP officials at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- In May, CBP released a revised Use of Force Handbook that incorporated many of ACLU’s recommendations. The revised handbook’s release was accompanied by the full release of the PERF report that demonstrated our collective power to demand long-resisted transparency from CBP.
- In June, CBP replaced their head of Internal Affairs with an interim head detailed from FBI, who promised a review of more than 800 complaints. (While this interim head has since been replaced, we will continue to push for the results of this review.)
- In July, we built on our ongoing, shared field efforts to revitalize not militarize border communities by deploying border-wide checkpoints to inform pedestrians and motorists of their rights and monitor CBP in communities from California to Texas.
- In August, ICE’s southern California Field Office and CBP’s San Diego sector agreed to robust reforms to settle the ACLU’s Lopez-Venegas class action litigation on behalf of the many family members coerced into signing away their legal rights and agreeing to swift deportations that regularly separate border families.
- In September, CBP announced the creation of an Integrity Advisory Panel to devise recommendations and benchmarks for avoiding and addressing abuses by agents and inspectors and has promised to be more forthcoming about future use-of-force incidents (CBP is now issuing press statements on incidents and sending these to the CBP-NGO Working Group, even when the incident isn’t covered by the press.)
- In October, CBP announced pilot testing body-worn cameras at the FLETC facility in Artesia, NM, and promised to follow this testing with field testing the cameras in both northern and southern border sectors. The details of the pilot were shared in the first CBP-NGO Working Group meeting held in the border region (i.e., San Diego) that included significant participation from top-level agency officials like Chief of the Border Patrol Michael Fisher and Interim Head of CBP Internal Affairs Mark Morgan.
- In November, President Obama’s announced executive action brought nearly five million of our friends, neighbors and family the possibility of temporary peace of mind and showed the Administration has heard loud and clear the call from our communities to end Secure Communities and hold CBP accountable to implementing enforcement reforms.
- In December, No More Deaths brought renewed pressure to ongoing advocacy to reform personal belongings policies through ground-breaking documentation of the “Shakedown” occurring daily to men and women robbed of their money, personal identification and other belongings by our criminalization of immigrants. And ACLU shed light on the nearly 83% of deportations occurring in 2013 with little to no judicial oversight, effectively resulting in an “American Exile.”
We also saw some progress in the courtroom on use-of-force cases. In July, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the family of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca had a constitutional right to sue the Border Patrol agent who killed the 15-year-old in Juarez, Mexico, in 2010. The ruling was the first nationally to determine the family of someone killed in Mexico had a right to sue in the United States. In October, a federal judge in San Diego also cleared the way for a trial of CBP officials over the tasering death of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, finally creating an opportunity for justice after a four-year wait. Eight agents and four supervisors are named in the lawsuit, which is scheduled to progress next year.
These highlighted accomplishments are remarkable with any law agency, but more so when you’re talking about holding accountable the largest law enforcement agency in the nation.
From early summer until now, we’ve also rapidly shifted our efforts to demonstrate to the nation how to respond with compassion and protect children and families fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking our help. We engaged the media, mobilized donations and community-based shelters, documented abuses and filed administrative complaints on behalf of unaccompanied children, and filed litigation to slow down deportation mills like Artesia and provide families a chance to tell their story with due process.
And throughout the year, we’ve watched the media’s narrative continue to shift towards our message of accountability and oversight, with groundbreaking reporting of CBP’s internal affairs crisis in the Center for Investigative Reporting and Border Patrol’s out-of-control abuse in Politico Magazine.