In general, the government must meet a high burden in a fair hearing to show that a non-citizen should be deported. But at and near the border, Customs and Border Protection relies upon a range of procedures that result in summary expulsion from the United States. Among those regularly subjected to these summary procedures, which include expedited removal, voluntary return, and reinstatement of removal, are people who have lived in the United States for decades with their families as well as victims of torture and persecution arriving in our country to seek protection. Those subjected to summary expulsion procedures frequently report that CBP officers used misinformation and coercion against them.
In the middle of 2014, a 14-year-old U.S. citizen, whose parents were from Guatemala, was traveling back to the U.S. with her older sister when she was taken into custody by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. Upon arriving at the U.S. border and presenting a copy of her Florida birth certificate, she was detained and accused of presenting a fake document. After her arrest, CBP transferred her to what she called the “hielera” or “icebox.” She was held in federal custody for 44 days before finally being released into the custody of a family member living in Nebraska.
Filed by the ACLU and Cooley LLP on behalf of eleven Mexican nationals and three immigration advocacy organizations, this class action lawsuit challenged deceptive tactics used by Border Patrol agents and ICE officers to convince noncitizens to accept “voluntary return.” Each individual plaintiff had significant family ties in the United States and lacked any serious criminal history. Thus, they could have asserted strong claims to remain in the United States if they had been granted a hearing before an immigration judge. The complaint alleged that Border Patrol agents and ICE officers have a pattern and practice of pressuring undocumented immigrants to sign what amount to their own summary expulsion documents.
On the morning of January 31, 2012, Francisco Jaimes Villegas was driving with two of his Hispanic coworkers on Highway 84 outside Santa Anna, Texas, when he was pulled over by two Border Patrol (BP) agents using their emergency lights. He was taken to the Border Patrol station in San Angelo where he was questioned by one of the arresting agents. Mr. Jaimes informed the agent that he did not want to sign a form agreeing to be sent out of the country. He then was questioned a second time by a different agent, who told him that he had to sign, and tried to convince him that it would be better for him to do so, telling him he was going to be deported anyway.
On various dates in early 2013, four women were apprehended at the United States Texas border by BP agents. BP agents regularly asked each of the women to sign documents printed in English, which the women could not read and did not understand. BP agents threatened that they would be kept in the holding cell until they signed these documents. BP agents also referred to them in demeaning ways, including calling them “bitches.” Only one of the women was asked whether she had a fear of returning to her country of origin, as required, though several of them do.
On March 11, 2011, E.R., a four-year-old U.S. citizen, was detained by CBP following her arrival at Dulles Airport. E.R. was returning home to New York from Guatemala with her grandfather when her flight was diverted from JFK to Dulles airport due to bad weather. Following an issue with her grandfather’s paperwork, E.R. was detained by CBP for the next 20 plus hours. CBP gave her only a cookie and soda during the entire time, and provided nowhere to nap other than the cold floor. Although CBP officers had the phone number of E.R’s parents, they failed to contact them for nearly 14 hours, and repeatedly refused her grandfather’s requests to be allowed to call them.