Exclusive: analysis of more than a decade of official data reveals government paid settlements after deaths, alleged assaults and wrongful detention
The US government has paid out more than $60m in legal settlements where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention, an analysis of more than a decade of official data reveals.
Since taking office, Donald Trump has been pushing to expand the patrol force at the southern border, insisting recently on Twitter: “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws.”
But while Trump has ordered national guard troops to be deployed to provide agents with extra support, the review of settlement data and details found in related court records raises concerns about the agency’s history of interactions with civilians, both native-born and immigrant.
Cases uncovered by examination of treasury payment records spanning October 2005 to July 2017, court documents and media reports reveal:
- The federal government has settled at least 20 wrongful death claims on behalf of CBP, paying more than $9m to the families of people killed since 2003, in incidents including shooting, beating, use of Tasers and collisions with vehicles.
- Nearly $47m has been paid out for damages resulting from alleged reckless driving by border agents. Of more than 1,300 such payments, made in states across the country, a review of 40 cases with available court records found six crashes which were deadly and 18 that cited grave injuries including amputations and disability.
- Four people, including two US citizens and a legal permanent resident received settlements for being wrongly deported. Nine people, including three citizens, two immigrants with legal status and two tourists, received settlements for illegal detentions of between four days and two months;
- More than $650,000 was paid out in settlements in four cases where four people were shot by border agents and survived.
The data also reveals another $6m in settlements stemming from a range of other allegations involving non-deadly force and civil rights violations. Lawsuits were filed by men and women who say they were racially profiled, unreasonably searched, detained for hours on end and in some cases assaulted.
Some describe having guns held to their heads; others alleged they were beaten at checkpoints, land crossings, in the rural desert, at an airport, in front of their children, or, in one instance, in their own home.
The Guardian analysis comes after border agent Lonnie Swartz was last month cleared on a murder charge in connection with the death of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez who died after Swartz fired 16 times across the border from Arizona into Mexico.
Read more: www.theguardian.com