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Complaint: U.S. agents ‘looting’ immigrants before deportations

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A complaint filed by advocacy groups alleges U.S. Border Patrol agents are looting immigrants of possessions before deporting them to Mexico without their IDs or money.

The ACLU of New Mexico and a coalition of organizations filed the administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security today and say the seizures are putting migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in harm’s way. The complaint said immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally were deported without their belongings in 26 separate cases. Advocates say immigrants were deported to cities in Mexico where they have no acquaintances.

DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement the department has a policy of safeguarding detainees’ property.

“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. Any allegation of missing property will be thoroughly investigated,” Christensen said.

In one case, the complaint alleges, U.S. Border Patrol agents detained a 23-year-old man from Chihuahua, Mexico, on a road near Antelope Wells, N.M., in February 2015 and forced him to sign a form abandoning the rights to his belongings. According to the complaint, the man did not understand the contents of the form and the agents never advised him of his right to reclaim his belongings.

He was later sent to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, without his belongings, documents claimed.

The complaint also said Border Patrol agents seized nearly $400 from a 23-year-old woman from Guerrero after she was detained near an international bridge in El Paso, Texas. Advocates said the money, which was part of the woman’s life savings, was never returned.

“They are really eroding the rule of law at the border,” ACLU of New Mexico attorney Kristin Greer Love said. “They are putting people at great vulnerability. Some are fleeing dangerous situations and are seeking asylum in the U.S.”

Advocacy groups in Mexico complain the seizures have been occurring along the border for years, Love said. Documents also said Border Patrol agents often destroy belongings, including legal and identity documents.

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