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Immigration Law

Border Patrol Strips Migrants of Needed Documentation

Melissa del Bosque, Border Chronicle, May 3, 2022

"In Arizona and Texas, border residents are noticing more and more personal belongings discarded along the U.S. side of the border wall. They include passports, birth certificates, police reports, and other confidential documents that could be crucial in proving asylum cases. ... [I]n South Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, abandoned belongings continue to pile up along the U.S. side of the border wall. In some places they are so thick that the Border Patrol uses a grader to “shove it off into piles at the side of the road,” says Scott Nicol, an environmentalist and artist, who often walks the stretch of border wall near his home and inspects the belongings left behind. Nicol says he’s found birth certificates, passports, police reports, and other confidential documents. “What really got to me were the x-rays I found. They were for a six-year-old boy, and it showed a steel rod in his spine. It was obviously for an asylum claim,” he says. “Why would anyone part with those?” ...  [A]fter the Trump administration started the Migrant Protection Protocols program, often referred to as “Remain in Mexico,” some of the migrants they encountered told them Border Patrol agents had ripped up their Mexican immigration visas and other documents. “The agents would say that they were fake documents when they were actually real, and they really needed them,” she says. ... Blake Gentry, director of the indigenous language office at Casa Alitas, a migrant shelter in Tucson, estimates that about one-third of the people who arrive at the shelter have no documents or belongings. In 30 years of working on the border, he says he’s never heard of passports and other confidential documents being dumped, especially next to a Border Patrol checkpoint. Gentry suspects it’s Border Patrol agents who are doing the dumping. “If this is happening on the U.S. side of the wall, it’s most likely Border Patrol,” he says. Even if agents suspected the documents were fake, they should have at least confiscated them, he says: “If they’re throwing away documents in public dumpsters without shredding them, then that tells me they’re not doing investigations.” Gentry says there’s often a disconnect between the law and how agents operate along the border. “There’s what the Border Patrol says, and then there’s the law,” he says. “In terms of the daily functions of the Border Patrol, you can always find a lot of anomalies in what goes on.”"