ACLU Calls for Border-Patrol Investigations

     (CN) — The latest complaints filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Border Patrol accuse agents of detaining innocent residents for days in filthy and overcrowded facilities before releasing them without an explanation or apology.
     In two complaints lodged Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security oversight agencies, the ACLU outlines 11 cases in which some people were allegedly wrongfully detained for days but never charged.
     In one instance, Phoenix resident Francisco Baca was pulled over and detained by agents after he picked up a hitchhiker 50 miles north of the border, the ACLU says.
     “Mr. Baca was detained for 14 hours in two different cells, both of which were extremely cold and uncomfortable. Agents gave Mr. Baca a thin aluminum sheet but it was not sufficient to keep warm. In one cell, there were approximately 40 other people and there was not enough room for everyone to sit on the benches provided,” the ACLU says in one of the complaints.
     Baca was taken to a nearby county jail the next day, where he spent two nights in custody before eventually being driven to a gas station and released without explanation, according to the complaint.
     In another case, the ACLU says Gabriela Donato was forced to undergo an X-ray examination and urinate into a bedpan in front of two agents after port inspectors accused her of smuggling drugs through the San Luis port of entry.
     Even though the X-ray did not reveal any contraband, Donato was transported back to the port of entry, where she was placed in a cell and told to take her clothes and shoes off, the ACLU says.
     No one ever arrived to examine Donato, who was never given any food or water. She was released after another 30 minutes without any explanation or apology, according to the complaint.
     A year later, Donato — who has never been prosecuted for or convicted of any crime — saw her own photo posted at the Border Patrol’s checkpoint near Quartzsite, Arizona, warning that she had a criminal history of possessing narcotics and had developed a suspicious pattern of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the ACLU says.
     Most of the incidents described in the ACLU’s complaints allegedly arose in the course of Border Patrol checkpoint and “roving patrol” stops. The individuals who were wrongfully detained and kept in inhumane conditions were not charged with any crime or immigration violation, yet their property was confiscated and some had to pay thousands of dollars to recover their vehicle, the ACLU says.
     In other cases, residents say they face constant surveillance and harassment on their own property, including frequent incursions by low-flying Border Patrol helicopters, the ACLU says.
     Betty Lindstrom, a landowner whose property is adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border, experiences frequent intrusions onto her land by Border Patrol agents, who have conducted military training exercises on her property, the ACLU says.
     One day, she returned home to find a bullet hole in her kitchen window, the complaint says.
     “At the same time the Justice Department and the Obama administration are rightly urging local police to adopt ‘best practices’ — ending racial profiling, collecting stop data, and curbing police militarization and asset forfeiture abuses — we see the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, California Border Patrol, rejecting those common-sense reforms,” ACLU of Arizona staff attorney James Lyall said.
     “The federal government is effectively saying, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ which leaves Border Patrol free to target citizens and non-citizens alike with these increasingly extreme and abusive tactics,” Lyall said.
     The ACLU asked for an investigation into the allegations.
     Government officials did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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