A new report from the Tucson-based human rights group No More Deaths alleges systematic mistreatment in the Border Patrol processing centers, including: the denial of food, water and medical treatment, physical and verbal abuse, separation of families and the failure to return belongings.
No More Deaths gathered anecdotes of abuse over the last two years from illegal immigrants who came through aid stations they operate in Sonora on the Mexican side of the border in Nogales, Naco and Agua Prieta.
The Border Patrol denies the claims and there are no internal or external reports that either dismiss or validate the allegations.
Neither the Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General or the U.S. Government Accountability Office have looked into the matter.
All apprehended illegal immigrants pass through the processing centers before officials determine their next destination. Some are sent to long term detention centers and the majority are granted voluntary returns to Mexico.
Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief Robert W. Gilbert said the criticisms are unfair , noting the report is based on unfounded allegations that can’t be investigated because they lack specifics.
He said the agency is constantly self-policing itself and foreign consulates are also in the centers daily. Additionally, there are plenty of ways for complaints to be lodged: to an agent, to a consulate official or anonymously through a 1-800 number that Gilbert said is easily accessible.
“It’s not cloak and dagger, it’s there,” said Gilbert, who became Tucson Sector chief in March 2007. “There have been many different groups come in and tour our facilities. This is not behind the black curtain.”