If there was ever any doubt that immigrants are grossly mistreated by Border Patrol agents and immigration officials, one Mexican man’s experience should serve as confirmation.
According to The Appeal, a declaration submitted to a federal public defender in San Diego, California, stated that a Border Patrol agent made a detained Mexican immigrant clean the agent’s truck and then locked him inside it with the air conditioning blasting.
The man reportedly broke down in tears, and when he told the agent he was cold, the agent took it to another extreme and turned the heat up to the highest level. He also allegedly kept the car heated while they drove through a heat wave en route to federal court in downtown San Diego.
The unnamed migrant told his attorney that he heard the Border Patrol agent announce to a colleague that he was “going to make this Mexican clean my truck.” He added that when he was done cleaning out the vehicle he felt “like a dog.”
The man had previously lived in the United States for 18 years but was deported back to Mexico at some point. He was caught trying to re-enter the country on July 24 and arrested with three other people just two miles north of the border near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
The Appeal notes that many immigrants are being held in Border Patrol custody longer than usual while awaiting criminal prosecution in federal court as a result of the zero tolerance policy enforced by President Donald Trump’s administration. In the past, the majority of Mexican immigrants arrested were quickly sent back through the “expedited removal” process or through the reinstatement of a previous order for their removal.
Currently, immigrants caught at the border are being detained and brought to federal court to face criminal charges under a prosecution program called “Operation Streamline,” which has led to Border Patrol agents taking on the responsibility of housing and transporting immigrants who would have otherwise been immediately removed or placed into the custody of the United States Marshals or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Michelle Angeles — an attorney at the Federal Defenders of San Diego who represented the migrant who made the declaration — said it’s not certain whether there has necessarily been an increase in abuse by Border Patrol since Operation Streamline began. Alas, even just one case of this inhumane treatment is one too many.
The one silver lining, however, is that because more immigrants are now facing criminal prosecution in federal court under the Trump administration’s policies, they are being provided lawyers. This process has allowed them to report abuse they’ve endured during meetings with the federal public defenders assigned to their cases.
In response to the accusations, Border Patrol has claimed it doesn’t have any record of the incidents during the time that the migrant was in custody. They also offered a very generic defense of their agents and practices, claiming that the agency “stresses honor and integrity.”
“The Border Patrol stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of Border Patrol employees and agents perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe,” Eduardo Olmos, a Border Patrol spokesperson told The Appeal. “We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty.”
While we cannot deny that people who cross the border into the United States illegally are, technically, committing a crime, they are still human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The majority of these migrants are fleeing violence and mistreatment in their home country, and the last thing they need is to experience more of it in the United States, which prides itself on being the so-called "land of the free and the home of the brave." These abusive Border Patrol agents seem to be representing the land of the cowardly.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters, Mike Blake