Report challenges border patrol on asylum seekers

Report challenges border patrol on asylum seekers

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A new report by the Kino Border Initiative says the Department of Homeland Security is not following proper procedure when it comes to handling complaints from people seeking asylum.

The Initiative says when a refugee or asylum seeker files a complaint, it is rarely investigated beyond lower staff level.

Often there is a gap between what the individual tells the Border Patrol and what is reported by the agents.

A report of the conversation is written and filed, but according to the Initiative, there is no audio record of the what was said and it is often in dispute.

The Border Patrol may fill out a report that says the asylum seeker is looking for work and not afraid, but when the nonprofit interviews the individual, there is often a different story.

"When the individual is talking to us, they say look at this video where my cousin was killed for not joining the cartels and that was going to happen to me," said Joanna Williams, a Georgetown graduate who has been working for KPI for two years.

She said the report is not meant to forge a wedge with DHS but to assist in ways to improve the system.

"We don't see them as an antagonistic relationship," she said. "What we want is the Department of Homeland Security to do a better job and respect the rights and dignity of people."

The Border Patrol would not comment on the report immediately, but said it would comment in the near future.

Williams says the Border Patrol has doubled in size in recent years but the independent agencies that are charged with investigating the complaints, has not grown and is now underfunded and understaffed.

She said of the 39 complaints filed, she has records of only 13 that have been followed up on, which she said is not acceptable.

"What we're asking for is they require those audio recordings, just like many police departments across the country, that border patrol wear body cameras," she said.

She would like audio records of the interactions so there is not a question about what was said during the initial conversation.

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