CBP’s Long History of Mistreatment of Detained People

All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of immigration status or country of origin. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) routinely abuses and neglects people in its custody. This must stop.

CBP, which includes Border Patrol, is the country’s largest federal law enforcement agency. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are held in CBP holding facilities at or near the U.S.-Mexico border. These facilities—often referred to as “hieleras” (Spanish for “freezers” or “iceboxes”) are typically small, concrete rooms, with concrete or metal benches, no beds, no showers, fluorescent lights that are left on day and night, and without full-time, trained medical personnel on-site.

In light of these horrific conditions, CBP facilities (including Border Patrol stations) are categorically unsuitable for vulnerable people, and especially for prolonged periods of detention. No one should be held in such facilities beyond the time required for initial processing. In no case should this time exceed 12 hours. Yet CBP routinely detains people for days at a time, all the while ignoring even the agency’s own anemic policies regarding proper treatment of individuals in its custody.

The ACLU has called upon the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) to complete immediate reviews of CBP’s treatment of people it detains, and to issue prompt and meaningful recommendations to protect detainees (including pregnant people, sick children, and families).

Below is a list of our filed and forthcoming administrative complaints, which describe the abuse and neglect experienced by people in CBP detention in San Diego since March 2019:

If DHS OIG cannot or will not exercise meaningful oversight of CBP, the American public and members of Congress must take action to hold this agency accountable.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all through education, litigation, & policy advocacy.