EL PASO, Texas – The ACLU is among the groups that have filed an administrative complaint against the Department of Homeland Security for confiscating money and property from individuals before deporting them.
The groups allege that immigration officials confiscated and failed to return personal belongings, exposing at least 26 people to greater risk of harm on their return to Mexico. Attorney Kristin Love with ACLU New Mexico said that without money or ID, people face extreme hardships in Mexico.
“People are deported to border cities far from where they are from without anything,” she said, “and have a very difficult time even paying for a place to stay when they’re on the border, or paying for food or getting a bus ticket home.”
Gillian Christensen, national press secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said her agency is investigating the complaints. She added that not returning belongings, money or identification prior to deportation is against agency policy.
During processing, Love said, ICE agents take a deportee’s belongings and put them in storage. It then becomes the deportee’s responsibility to claim those belongings or have a third party do so, something Love said is almost impossible when a person is in detention. She added that if the belongings are not claimed, they are destroyed.
“The Department of Homeland Security recently signed local repatriation arrangements with Mexico, saying that they would take all steps to ensure that belongings are back in the hands of their owners before their release from custody,” she said. “And yet, they haven’t taken even a reasonable step to ensure that this happened.”
Activists from Mexico and the United States jointly filed the complaint, Love said, adding that the majority of cases involved the El Paso Border Patrol Sector, which serves New Mexico and West Texas.
Some reports estimate that one in three people deported has his or her possessions confiscated and not returned.
The complaint is online at aclutx.org