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Lawsuit Against Border Patrol Claims Excessive Force, False Arrest

PHOTO: The ACLU of Texas has filed a lawsuit claiming that a Customs and Border Protection agent used unwarranted force and physically abused a U.S. citizen during questioning last fall. Photo credit: Bill Morrow.
PHOTO: The ACLU of Texas has filed a lawsuit claiming that a Customs and Border Protection agent used unwarranted force and physically abused a U.S. citizen during questioning last fall. Photo credit: Bill Morrow.
October 23, 2013

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is facing a new lawsuit over an alleged false arrest and excessive use of force against a U.S. citizen.

The incident happened last November as a pregnant woman with disabilities was confronted by an agent outside her workplace in Brownsville. Adriana Pinon, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said the woman hadn't broken any laws and was not interfering.

"And yet, when she asked a few questions of the agent, he reacted violently," she said, "He threw her to the ground with so much force that her jeans tore and she suffered physical injuries. He put his weight on her and handcuffed her so tightly that the fire department had to be called to get the cuffs off."

The woman suffered a miscarriage the next day from injuries as a result of the incident, according to her doctor.

Customs and Border Patrol does not comment specifically on pending litigation, but said it does not tolerate misconduct within its ranks and fully cooperates with all investigations.

Pinon said these types of cases are all too common, adding that to reverse that trend, the Border Patrol needs to improve training, transparency and accountability.

"It's so important that agents understand what the legal limits of the use of force are," she said, "because incidents such as the one in our complaint deteriorate trust in our community, and our border communities suffer as a result."

An audit of Border Patrol training conducted by the Inspector General last year found that many agents and officers do not understand the extent to which they may or may not use force.

The complaint is online at aclutx.org. The Inspector General's report on Border Patrol use of force is at aclu.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX