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Migrant Justice: Toxic U.S. Border Law Enforcement Culture Enabling Abuses

A new database of incidents of abuse at the Mexico border paints a harrowing picture of the U.S.’s dysfunctional border security system and the “toxic culture” driving the law enforcement agencies tasked with implementing it.
The database,, developed by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), brings together more than 200 examples of alleged human rights abuses, along with nearly 300 reports from official government sources, NGOs, and media since 2020. Abuses at the hands of Border Patrol agents include misuse of lethal force, racial profiling and even abuses within the workforce. The database is a living document that will continuously be updated to reflect the most current information.

Many reported abuses go uninvestigated, or investigations are slow and timid. Punishments are rare, which likely contributes to troubling behavior patterns. 

Some examples of database entries include: 

  • Fatal use-of-force incidents that to our knowledge remain unresolved, in Douglas and Nogales, Arizona;  CampoCalexico, and San Ysidro, California; and Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, and Laredo, Texas.
  • Data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union and reproduced by the New York Times showing that 21 people died in vehicle collisions in 2021 after Border Patrol agents pursued them at high speed. That was up from 14 in 2020 and an average of 3.5 per year from 2010 to 2019. 
  • Also, examples of agents telling asylum seekers that they are being transported to be processed for asylum and reunited with relatives in the United States, when in fact they were expelling them into Mexico or flown back to Haiti.
  • In response to reports, CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) opened 516 investigations into use of force incidents in 2020, 17 of them for use of deadly force. Of the few use-of-force cases closed with a disciplinary outcome, one resulted in a removal, two in reprimands, and five with counseling.