December 7, 2021

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Legislators ask DOJ to probe ‘shadow police unit’ that’s covered up border abuses for years

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SBCC wrote that BPCIT has existed since at least the late 1980s, and played a key role in the cover-up around the 2010 killing of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, who was hog-tied, beaten, and tased by border officers. ”By the time he reached the hospital, he was brain-dead, and he died days later,” The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year. But as SBCC wroteBPCIT obstructed the investigation by tampering with evidence and attempting to falsely portray the dad of five U.S. citizens as violent. BPCIT at one point even tried to push the FBI to charge Hernandez Rojas with assault “while he lay brain dead in the hospital. The FBI declined.”

“All use-of-force incidents investigated by BPCITs should be re-examined,” SBCC said in that letter. “As a priority, the investigation of Anastasio Hernández Rojas’s death should be reopened. It is a landmark case as the first ever to go before an international tribunal where it is currently pending.”

SBCC’s Oct. 27 letter called on Congressional leaders including Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Gary Peters, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, and Rep. Jerry Nadler to open an investigation into this shadow police unit. It’s unclear from House Democrats’ Nov. 4 letter if they intend to open their own investigation. What is available from the letter requests “the Department of Justice open an investigation into these allegations,” and “that U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security cooperate throughout this investigation.”

“Government agencies and departments such as U.S. Border Patrol are established to provide safety and security to the United States and the people in our country, not to shield its agents or the agency from criminal prosecution,” the three legislators continued. “If these allegations are true, it will further diminish the trust between the public and law enforcement agencies.”

We know it’s not just this secretive shadow police unit that’s worked to protect abusive border agents; it’s also the agency itself. The House Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Maloney, said in a report last month that just two agents were fired for their participation in a racist Facebook group where posters mocked an unaccompanied child who died alone while in U.S. custody. Despite dozens of agents being implicated, the committee said CBP and its union fought to shield them from any accountability. 

One agent, who posted “among the most explicit and offensive graphics and comments” and was recommended for firing by the Discipline Review Board, actually retired with full benefits before any actions could be taken. Dozens of others “found to have committed misconduct” continue to “work in positions of power over migrants, including families with children,” the report said. “After completing the disciplinary processes, these agents returned to their previous duties working face-to-face with migrant populations at the border, in detention, and throughout inspection and processing.”

“SBCC has documented over 150 deaths resulting from encounters with border agents since 2010,” the coalition said in its letter. “The actual number might be significantly higher. According to a 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, CBP does not have reliable information on deaths and ‘has not consistently reported deaths of individuals in custody to Congress.’ Apart from deaths, abuse is rampant … Despite the magnitude of harm, few border agents are held accountable. In fact, not a single agent has been successfully prosecuted for use of force on duty that ended in death. Not a single one in the nearly 100 years that Border Patrol has existed. Zero.”



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