A Border Patrol agent has been arrested “on a charge of Official Oppression,” accused of assaulting and mistreating a minor in U.S. custody, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said. The agency identified the agent only as belonging to the Del Rio Sector, and said they were arrested by Texas Rangers. No other details were given in the short statement, including any details about the alleged abuse.
Still, we can say definitively that this charge is a rarity, considering how often border agents have abused and even killed migrants, and gotten away with it.
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Just this week, the Border Patrol’s union joined with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to openly argue that infants in federal immigration custody should be starved. The right-wing, including top GOP officials, are currently engaged in a racist outrage campaign over providing baby formula to migrant infants. Thousands of active border agents are members of this union. If they’re openly arguing against feeding brown children, what are they doing behind the scenes?
We have some idea. The Department of Homeland Security inspector general confirmed last September that border agents lied about the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, falsifying logs to make it look like they’d been regularly checking on him when in fact he died by himself, from flu, on his cell’s cement floor. His May 2019 death made him the fifth child to die after being taken into U.S. custody since December 2018.
However, no charges were filed against any officers, nor would CBP say if any agents were disciplined. Last week, officials also said no charges would be filed against a border agent who shot and killed an unarmed migrant, claiming that the shooting was justified because the migrant, 32-year-old dad Carmelo Cruz Marcos, supposedly had a rock. But CBP has lied about this very kind of accusation in the past.
Vital in helping shield agents from accountability have been Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams (BPCITs), the secretive units whose sole purpose has been to cover up abuses by officers. Following a push from advocates, the Biden administration said that it will disband these units and shift all investigative responsibilities to CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the same office that’s investigating the abuse allegations against the Del Rio Sector agent.
Border officials were also forced to hospitalize four severely sick migrant toddlers after pressure from attorneys conducting an inspection of a McAllen, Texas detention facility in 2019. “One 2-year-old’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was ‘completely unresponsive’ and limp, according to Toby Gialluca, a Florida-based attorney,” HuffPost reported at the time.
These children were rushed to care only because the attorneys, who had been inspecting a number of border facilities as part of the Flores Agreement, made detention officials provide care. The Flores Agreement requires humane care for children in U.S. custody, including nutrition. It shouldn’t take a law to ensure that children are fed, they should get fed because they’re human beings. But this is really what Republicans and right-wing media are really now fighting against.
RELATED STORIES: Border officials had to be forced into hospitalizing four toddlers that were dying on their watch
No children had died in federal immigration custody for a decade—until the Trump administration
Following push from advocates, CBP to disband cover-up units that shielded abusive border agents