The ACLU of Arizona was to file a complaint today to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an investigation of what it calls unlawful roving patrol stops by Border Patrol agents in Southern Arizona.
“We are asking them to investigate the alleged abuses by the individual agents and the response from the agency,” said James Lyall, an ACLU staff attorney in Arizona.
They are also asking the DHS Office of Inspector General and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to consider whether Customs and Border Protection in Arizona is conducting lawful roving patrol operations and whether there is a need for better training and oversight.
The 14-page report includes five individual cases when people reported being stopped for no apparent reason and being subjected to abuse after questioning the agents.
The reports are among dozens the ACLU has received since it opened its Tucson office in June.
CBP wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.
Unlawful roving patrol stops by the Border Patrol are a long-standing and widespread problem, Lyall said.
The ACLU of Washington filed a class-action lawsuit last year against CBP accusing the agency of racial profiling during traffic stops.
The agency admitted no wrongdoing in the case, but under the settlement, the Border Patrol will provide additional training to its agents in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula on traffic stops that require reasonable suspicion.
It also has to hand over patrol data to the ACLU for the next 18 months.
One of the Arizona cases highlighted by the organization involved a U.S. citizen mother of two driving home after picking up her daughter from school.
Clarisa Christiansen was pulled over by a Border Patrol agent a couple of miles from her home in Three Points on May 21.
The agent asked about her citizenship and asked to search her vehicle.
When she refused and asked why she was stopped, the agent said he wouldn’t give her an explanation until she stepped out of the vehicle, the complaint reads.
The agent threatened to cut her out of her seat belt with a retractable knife, according to the complaint, and eventually removed the keys from the ignition.
Christiansen got out of the vehicle and gave the agent her driver’s license. After the agent ran a background check, he gave her license back and drove away.
Christiansen noticed her rear tire had been punctured and was flat. She immediately reported the incident and, seeking compensation for the tire, met with an investigator.
But she didn’t hear back until the ACLU contacted the agency a month later. She was then told the investigator believed the tire was “torn” and not intentionally punctured.