U.S. Border Patrol agents have stripped immigrants of their possessions before deporting them to Mexico without identification, cash or, in some cases, any real knowledge of their new surroundings, a complaint filed Wednesday by the ACLU of New Mexico and a coalition of organizations alleges.
The complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asserts that seizing those items from migrants getting booted out of the country put them at greater risk of harm. There have been 26 cases in which IDs and money were taken from immigrants, the complaint says, and some of the deportees were sent to cities in Mexico where they knew no one.
The DHS responded that taking property from migrants violates the department’s policy.
“DHS will review the complaint once we receive it. DHS has strict standards in place to ensure that detainees' personal property — including funds, baggage and other effects — is safeguarded and controlled while they are in detention and returned to them when they are released from CBP/ICE custody or removed from the United States,” Gillian Christensen, a DHS spokeswoman, said in a statement provided to the Associated Press. “Any allegation of missing property will be thoroughly investigated.”
The ACLU of New Mexico contends that the loss of personal items can have devastating results. Immigrants have reported that weeks of wages were taken in addition to vital items like cell phones, legal papers, prescription drugs and prescription glasses, according to Think Progress.
“In Mexico, basically you prove your identity by showing your voter ID card or your electoral card. Without it, you’re no one,” Vicki B Gaubeca, director of the ACLU in New Mexico, told Think Progress. “You can’t cash the check at the bank. You can’t even open an account at the bank. You can’t even travel in Mexico without showing some kind of identification. It puts them at risk of harm’s way. They wind up sort of being exposed to more criminal activities because of this.”
The United States deported the lowest number of immigrants last year than in any year going back to 2006. There were 231,000 deportations in 2015, a figure that is roughly a 42 percent drop since 2012, according to the Associated Press.