Activist group calls for independent review of US Border Patrol - Tucson News Now

Activist group calls for independent review of US Border Patrol

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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The United States Border Patrol has taken its share of heat over the years.

But a scathing, 72-page report entitled "A Culture of Cruelty" just might take the cake.

Compiled and authored by the local humanitarian group No More Deaths, the report takes into account interviews of nearly 13 thousand illegal immigrants.

Immigrants, arrested, detained and eventually sent back to Mexico from the United States.

"Not everything's the way they say it is," says an unidentified illegal immigrant featured in the report's attached DVD.  "Not everybody that goes over there (United States) is over there to sell drugs or do bad things. Majority of people that go from here over there...they want to do better for themselves."

More than just first person accounts, it's what the report alleges that's particularly troubling.

Widespread abuse of illegal immigrants at the hands of the U.S. Border Patrol: everything from physical abuse of immigrants.. to denial of medical treatment...to inadequate food and water while held in Border Patrol custody. 

In a written statement responding to the allegations the Border Patrol said, "...purported acts of mistreatment or agent misconduct will not be tolerated in any way."

Border Patrol spokesperson Mario Escalante takes it one step further.

"As a federal agency we don't investigate ourselves.  There is another agency that investigates mishaps or wrong doings by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) or CBP (Customs and Border Protection) employees.  And that would be the Office of the Inspector General," Agent Escalante said.  "This document will be made available to them and they will follow up as the investigative agency."

Prior to drafting the report, No More Deaths reportedly filed 90 complaints with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

But volunteers with No More Deaths say they never received a single response.

That's why they're now calling for an Independent Review Commission to investigate these very cases.

"Perhaps there are mechanisms in place, but for whatever reason they don't work," says Margo Cowan, an attorney for No More Deaths and one of the group's founding members.

It all came to a head with an organized demonstration in front of Tucson Sector headquarters Wednesday afternoon...and face to face meeting with the Border Patrol.

"At this point, we want to participate in that oversight process in some way," Cowan said.

The Border Patrol said they would cooperate fully with any investigation of misconduct or alleged abuse.

They also said they would forward the entire No More Deaths report to the Office of the Inspector General.

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