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Immigrant group issues report on alleged misconduct by Border Patrol along southern border

Published On: May 07 2014 07:30:45 PM CDT
Updated On: Nov 28 2014 08:13:12 PM CST

ABC-7's Maria Garcia reports.

EL PASO, Texas -

A new report shows what some are calling a damning portrait of misconduct by the Border Patrol in and around the southern border.

The Vice President of the local chapter of the Agency's union said it's an example "of another advocacy group trying to smear the Border Patrol."

The report, compiled by the American Immigrant Council, an immigrant advocacy group - looked at Border Patrol internal affairs complaints from January 2009 to January 2012 within the southern border.

Out of the 809 internal affairs complaints, a large majority of them were from people who accused Border Patrol agents of physical abuse or using excessive force. According to the report, in 40 percent of the cases with internal affairs, no decision had been made or reported.

In the rest of the cases, where the Border Patrol did reach a conclusion on a complaint, 97 percent of the time that conclusion was "no action."

"You have a situation that we hear about all the time in our office in El Paso from constituents who have filed complaints and are frustrated that they never hear back from the Border Patrol or CBP or that their complaint is found to have no merit even when they have proof and have suffered bodily injury," said O'Rourke in a phone interview Wednesday.

Stew Harris, Vice President of the local 1929 chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, points out that 1.3 million people were apprehended in the span of time covered by the report. He said that shows fewer than one-percent of those in border patrol custody filed a complaint. Harris said he believes the fact that the border patrol took no action on the majority of cases - shows agents are behaving appropriately.

"That supports our positions that our agents are doing the right thing 99% of the time," said Harris.

He added border patrol agents train quarterly on how to treat people they apprehend and who cross the border.

O'Rourke does not have the same take on the report, pointing out the authors had a difficult time obtaining the information through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"They were only able to get that data from one of five different channels through which people can launch complaints against CBP so it just goes to show you how opaque and non-transparent CBP is today and really how it operates within a culture of impunity  - impunity when it comes to being responsive to lawmakers, the press, the public," said O'Rourke.

The report shows complaints were much lower in El Paso - four per border patrol agent - than in other parts of the southern border. In the Tucson sector, complaints per agent were higher than 30.

The low ratio of complaints in El Paso demonstrates strong, good leadership in the El Paso sector of the Border Patrol, said O'Rourke.

The report may be good timing for O'Rourke. He and New Mexico Republican Congressman Steve Pearce introduced a bill to create a system - independent of the Border Patrol's chain of command that'll would review complaints. An independent commission, with subpeona powers, would then make recommendations to the Secretary of Homeland Security, who'd be required to implement the changes or a comparable alternative, said O'Rourke.

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