Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘U.S. Customs & Border Protection’ Category

Child migrants claim abuse by U.S. Border Patrol agents

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 15, 2014


Tens of thousands of children have crossed the border illegally since 2011 and now some of them are coming forward with stories of abuse at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents.  One boy claims an agent punched him in the stomach. We dealt with this agency back in 2010 when agents detained a Somali refugee in North Dakota for failing to keep an I-20 identification card on his person. The agency played games in trying to reject our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In 2011 a whistle-blower at the agency reported that staff get paid overtime while not working.  An article at The Wire explains the recent abuse allegations:

Some of the tens of thousands of children who have crossed the border since 2011 claim that they’ve been physically and verbally abused by border patrol agents while in their custody. Documents obtained by BuzzFeed via the Freedom of Information Act didn’t specify whether the claims were ever substantiated or investigated by the Border Patrol, but government officials filed two dozen reports about such allegations.

These “Significant Incident Reports” were made by staff at shelters connected to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement between March of 2011 and 2013. The office receives the children within three days of their apprehension. One girl from Guatemala claims her leg was run over by border patrol vehicle while she was trying to escape, though officials didn’t believe her. Another boy said an agent punched him in the stomach.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not commented on the abuse allegations, but on Monday afternoon the organization replaced its head of internal affairs, James F. Tomsheck, “amid concerns about use-of-force investigations of Border Patrol agents,” according to The Washington Post… Read more here

Posted in abuse, children, U.S. Customs & Border Protection | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Customs and Border Protection – getting paid overtime not to work

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 29, 2011

In this week of federal debt trauma in walks an employee of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to tell us how federal employees at his agency get overtime pay in exchange for not working. But of course all of us who care about refugees and immigrants, for the human beings they are, already know this about government agency workers, as well as their friends in private industry at the resettlement agencies. Many of them do whatever they want to do, and they suffer no consequences whatsoever. That is why we so desperately need passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Read more in Joe Davidson’s Washington Post column.

During a period when some in Congress and their related policy wonks think federal employees are overpaid, here comes Christian Sanchez, a Border Patrol agent who says he was punished for refusing overtime pay.

His bosses suggested that he get psychological help.

Instead, Sanchez has become a whistleblower, and on Friday he plans to tell gathering on Capitol Hill that he was retaliated against because he would not take overtime for doing no work.

Sanchez is an example of what the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy organization, calls “pocketbook whistleblowers.” They allegedly have suffered retaliation for actions that could save the government money.

This emphasis on guarding Uncle Sam’s pocketbook allows whistleblower advocates to broaden the appeal of legislation designed to expand legal protections for employees who disclose government waste, fraud and abuse. Supporting whistleblowers becomes more than helping individual employees who have been mistreated by the system — it becomes into an act of fiscal responsibility.

That approach could increase chances for the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. It’s come close to passage during the many years it has lingered in Congress, but proponents have not been able to push it across the finish line.

In a letter last month to President Obama and Congress, a group of federal whistleblowers urged them to approve the legislation, telling them that “you have allowed potentially billions of tax dollars to be wasted because all federal workers know they cannot speak up without engaging in professional suicide.”

Sanchez is speaking up, and he has paid a price.

There is little work to do at the Port Angeles, Wash., station, where he is assigned, he said. He calls it a “black hole” where agents have “no purpose, no mission.”

The worst fraud on taxpayers is that we are getting paid overtime not to work,” Sanchez said in a prepared statement. When he first started working at the station, “I noticed it was common practice for everyone to get paid overtime not to work… Read more here

Our own experience with Customs and Border Protection also demonstrated how completely corrupt and debased that federal agency is. Before either the Left or the Right try to spin this case for their own interests, I’d like to remind everyone that for decades both the Democrats and the Republicans have repeatedly contributed to corruption by installing their own cronies in the federal agencies and courts, while turning a blind eye to the damage these people have done to the people and the nation.

I nominate Christian Sanchez as hero of the month. It helps to restore my faith in humanity when I see that our country still has people like this among our ranks.

Posted in Congress, funding, Government Accountability Project, immigration services, Obama administration, openess and transparency in government, police, revolving door, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Washington | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

U.S. Customs and Border Protection civil servants at it again

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 6, 2010

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection civil servants have now responded to my FOIA request by releasing the 11 page report about their detention of Somali refugee(s) in Grand Forks – albeit the report is almost completely redacted. Apparently I am no longer considered a “commercial entity”, the excuse they used to delay release of the report for a month-and-a-half. I asked them what reason they had to ever consider me a commercial entity, and no response. They simply released the report suddenly and don’t answer the question.

Notice that one excuse used for the hundreds of redactions is that it would pose an “undo invasion of people’s privacy.” Yet they have even redacted the number of arrests, whether the person/people were male or female, and his/her/their citizenship status. How on earth would any of that be an undo invasion of privacy? It wouldn’t. We would have no way of knowing who the person/people are. If this public agency was operating on the up and up they would only have removed information that would show a person’s/people’s identity, e.g. name, address, date of birth, social security number, etc.

What we obviously have here is what we have seen at other government agencies — violation of U.S. laws (e.g. the Freedom of Information Act) simply to protect their own public servant hides and to avoid any accountability to the public, rather than protecting information that truly needs to be withheld. In other words, these government workers have a private interest in the information being hidden from the public, rather than any real public interest. That’s your money.

Remaining unanswered is why the Grand Forks Police asked for identification from members of the public who were merely watching the police at work. Also unanswered is why the U.S. Customs and Border Protection would then detain a person or people who had not engaged in any suspicious activity, let alone any illegal activity.

Posted in immigration documents, Lutheran Social Services of ND, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, North Dakota, openess and transparency in government, police, Somali, U.S. Customs & Border Protection | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says using documents to assist refugees and educate the public about refugees is “unconvincing”

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 30, 2010

I just received another letter today from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection about my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. A public servant named Dorothy Pullo, Director of FOIA Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in reply to my letter of November 3, 2010 claims that I indicated my belief that, “a message was being sent to residents by the involvement of the U.S. Border Patrol.” As I didn’t make any such statement in my letter I can only assume that Ms. Pullo is again internet surfing in a desperate bid to figure out how to overide my statements to her, rather than simply reading my letter. (I wonder if I’m going to be charged again for this additional internet surfing?) Notice, however, that I never made any such statement in my posting. I said that the Grand Forks Police were sending a message to anyone who dared stand and watch them by making those residents show documents.

Ms. Pullo also claims that, “your argument that the documents requested are to be used to assist refugees and educate the public about refugees is unconvincing”, and, “It appears likely the requested documents would be used in a manner consistent with interests of you and Friends of Refugees thus placing your request in the commercial-use requester fee category.” Thus I will need to pay at least $91.60 for them to press the print button on their computer and mail the 11 page document to me.

This is funny because that’s all I do – assist refugees and educate the public about refugees. Ms. Pullo offers no reason for why she would think I have any “commercial” interests in helping refugees or educating the public about refugees, probably because she has no real reason to think so.

I think what we have here is yet another government bureaucrat, whose salary we pay and who supposedly ought to be serving us, who thinks its her job to withhold government documents from the public and not abide by U.S. laws (Freedom of Information Act). Abiding by the law must seem like such an inconvenience to her.

Posted in Dept of Homeland Security, immigration documents, Lutheran Social Services of ND, North Dakota, openess and transparency in government, police, Somali, U.S. Customs & Border Protection | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Customs & Border Protection Responds to Freedom of Information Act Request

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 29, 2010

After I saw an article last month in the Grand Forks Herald about the Somali refugees that Border Patrol detained I posted on the incident, here. U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents detained the Somali refugees, one of whom had just arrived in the U.S. a month earlier, for failure to carry original copies of their immigration documents on their person.

Last week I put in a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Customs & Border Protection for the incident report. According to the agency’s response they consider me a “commercial” entity! They also demand that I pay $91.60 for the 11 page report, but only if I first send them written permission from the refugees in question. Hmmm.

What’s interesting about this is that, as you can see from my request, I requested the information as an individual. Apparently U.S. Customs & Border Protection personnel took it upon themselves to do some internet sleuthing on me, and then charged me for the hour of their time that it took. Of course a watchdog group like ours that isn’t even a nonprofit would hardly qualify as a commercial entity. In addition, they claim it would take two employees TWO MORE HOURS of their time to press the print button and put the eleven page report in an envelope to me. Interesting.

Still unanswered is why a Grand Forks police officer asked Somali residents of Grand Forks to show their identifications merely for watching the police question a Grand Forks Somali woman resident, Mulki Hoosh, about a parking violation. The Grand Forks police officers then called in Border Patrol agents to detain four Somali residents who could not produce original copies of their  I-94 or green cards. According to Hoosh the police said that they asked the Somali residents for their identification because they had “come to the scene of an investigation”. Apparently the police consider anyone just standing and watching them as suspicious. It’s clear that this is a warning to all residents that police civil servants will not allow residents to observe them at work without retaliation. Yet if people can’t watch the police in action how will we know whether they are acting according to the law? I guess I could understand if there were just one or two officers and they asked people to disperse, but in this case the police are deeming residents suspicious merely for standing and watching.

Funny how that works. I’m sure other public servants would also love to have the power to get rid of observers.

Posted in immigration documents, Lutheran Social Services of ND, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, North Dakota, Somali, U.S. Customs & Border Protection | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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