The United States government has increasingly militarized our borders and normalized treating immigrants in ways that are disturbing, abusive, and violent. And history suggests that with the Trump administration’s plan to quickly hire thousands more border patrol agents, these problems will only worsen. Loevy & Loevy has a cadre of passionate lawyers who aggressively challenge these types of governmental abuses, but the problems presented by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) are especially tricky to attack. The federal government’s intense secrecy around CBP and CBP’s ability and willingness to deport witnesses of its abuses makes it especially difficult to expose the misconduct and target the offending border patrol agents.
In a recent article, author John Washington describes all of the information hidden from Americans about CBP by government secrecy. We basically have no idea how often border patrol agents engage in excessive force, and we don’t know what, if anything, happens to the agents when they do. But what is clear is that CBP does not view border patrol agents as bound by the same core constitutional principles that protect everyone in our great country. One of those principles is that government agents may not use unwarranted excessive force against the public. An example of the governmental blind eye when border patrol agents acting with impunity is revealed in the pending Supreme Court case, Hernández v. Mesa, about a border patrol agent who shot and killed an unarmed boy, at close range, through a border fence as he played on the Mexican side. Cellphone videos of the shooting show that it was unprovoked. The Justice Department, however, declined to prosecute the agent, and if the Agent was reprimanded or punished, it occurred in secret and there was never any public accountability. The incident epitomizes what appears to be the norm for CBP – random acts of inexplicable violence, no accountability, and extreme secrecy.
If you’re thinking that you don’t live near the border, so this doesn’t affect you, think again. Washington notes that CBP has free rein to operate within 100-miles of all land and marine borders, which includes all coastal cities and nearly two-thirds of the entire US population. And unlike police officers, CBP believes that it may stop and detain motorists at an established checkpoint for questions about citizenship and immigration status, without reasonable suspicion of a crime, but rather just because the motorists or passengers “look Mexican.” An ACLU review of 142 complaints about border patrol agents concluded, “C.B.P.’s own records paint a disturbing picture of lawlessness and impunity, in which the agency continually operates without any regard for accepted best practices, and agents commit widespread abuses knowing they won’t be held accountable.” The complaints detail extreme aggression and terrifying threats with guns and tasers.
So what can be done? John Washington suggests enlisting whistle-blowers who want to come forward and talk about the abuses. This dovetails with another practice concentration at Loevy & Loevy. In addition to having wide success around litigating excessive force cases, Loevy & Loevy has a thriving whistle-blowers practice, and we welcome the opportunity to take on CBP. Challenging unchecked government power is what our country was founded on. It is time to stop the practice of government lawlessness within our borders.