[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Thursday filed a compliant [text, PDF] with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] seeking a federal investigation into allegations of abuse of individuals at ports of entries (POEs) along the U.S.-Mexico border by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) [official website] agents. The complaint illustrates 11 instances of abuse involving excessive force, invasive personal searches or the use of coercion to force travelers to surrender their legal rights, particularly along the southwest border. Sean Riordan, staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said [press release]:
There is simply no justification for the kind of needless abuse CBP officers inflict on many travelers. Far too many travelers are told by CBP officers that they have no rights. But the government must comply with basic and constitutional rights even when it is policing the border. It is unacceptable that CBP has not established sufficient oversight and accountability mechanisms to prevent officers from physically assaulting, detaining and psychologically abusing travelers.
The ACLU requests that the DHS investigate the individual abuses outlined in the complaint and undertake a comprehensive investigation of whether the CBP officers are acting lawfully. The complaint further urges that the DHS implement changes in CBP training, oversight and accountability so as to prevent future abuses.
The complaint comes as a general movement that has been sweeping the country toward tougher enforcement of immigration policy. The trend began with a controversial law in Arizona [JURIST news archive], and similar legislation has passed in Utah, South Carolina and Indiana [JURIST reports]. The Supreme Court heard arguments in April to determine Arizona’s controversial immigration law is preempted by federal law [JURIST reports]. In March, Amnesty International published a report [JURIST report] accusing the US Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of discriminating and committing rights abuses along the US-Mexico border.