By The Associated Press
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday that border inspectors have used excessive force and performed humiliating body searches on travelers entering the United States from Mexico.
The group offered 11 examples of alleged misconduct at crossings in California, Arizona and Texas going back to 2009 in a complaint to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that requests investigations into each one.
The 17-page letter describes a woman having her ankle cuffed to a pole at a Calexico crossing in March 2010, an inspector striking a man in the face in San Diego in April 2009 and a man being chained to a wall in Lukeville, Ariz., last year.
The ACLU said its affiliates in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas compiled the testimonies, many from U.S. citizens.
“By no means do we believe we have captured the scope or the depth of the problem. We believe we have barely scratched the surface,” said Sean Riordan, an attorney for the ACLU in San Diego.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates the ports of entry, issued a two-sentence statement that did not address specific allegations.
“CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission, and the overwhelming majority of CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. 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,” it read.
The report was released the same day that 16 members of Congress wrote Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to raise concern over the death of 42-year-old Anastasio Hernandez, who died after being shot several times with a stun gun by federal authorities at San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing in May 2010. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating.
An eyewitness video that first aired last month on PBS appears to show the illegal immigrant from Mexico being shot while lying on the ground, surrounded by about a dozen agents. The Justice Department has declined to comment on the video.
The lawmakers wrote that Hernandez’s death “may be emblematic of broader structural problems.”
None of the testimonies outlined in the ACLU complaint were described as life-threatening.
Hernan Cuevas, a Chilean businessman, was allegedly strip-searched and chained to a bench for 90 minutes at the Calexico port of entry in May 2011. He told reporters Thursday that he was never told why he was being held.
Listen to a Fronteras Desk piece about this story here. Fronteras Desk is a multimedia collaboration among seven public radio stations in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada and California, including Arizona Public Media.