U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest federal law enforcement agency in the United States, with over 60,000 personnel, including approximately 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents. CBP and the Border Patrol have expanded rapidly for almost 20 years—ever since CBP was moved into the then-newly formed U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after September 11.
The Border Patrol is notorious for civil and human rights abuses, violence, and impunity. At least 102 people have died as a result of encounters with Border Patrol in the last decade. No agent has ever been convicted of criminal wrongdoing while on duty, despite deaths in custody and uses of excessive, deadly force. Border Patrol agents engage in criminal activities outside their official duties at five times the rate of other law enforcement agencies’ officials. The agency’s discipline system is broken and agency leadership has not weeded out corrupt agents.
U.S. border communities have long understood the cruel tendencies of these rogue agencies—whose militarized over-policing of our border communities reflects our nation’s history of over-policing of Black and Brown people. Since 2013, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties has dedicated significant resources to identifying, documenting, and litigating civil and human rights abuses perpetrated by CBP and the Border Patrol. Led by Senior Staff Attorney Mitra Ebadolahi and in partnership with countless community partners throughout the United States, our border litigation work strives to ensure that government agents who trample border residents’ rights are held to account.
Listen to Ebadolahi provide an overview of the history of border abuses on the ACLU's podcast, AT LIBERTY, here:
Abuse and Accountability at the Border