On September 15, right before the Pope’s arrived in the U.S., the Kino Border Initiative and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States published Our Values on the Line: Migrant Abuse and Family Separation at the Border, a follow-up to Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy and the U.S.–Mexico Border (2013). It focuses on and increases our understanding of migrant abuse in the detention process and family separation. The following findings, based on in-depth surveys of 358 migrants deported to Nogales, Sonora between July 2014 and March 2015 (and supported by short-form surveys of 7,507 migrants during the same period), reveal the extent to which these traumatizing occurrences affect migrants in the apprehension, detention and deportation process:
- More than one third of migrants reported some sort of abuse or mistreatment by U.S. immigration authorities—16%, verbal abuse; 8.4%, racial slurs or discrimination; 14.5%, inhumane detention conditions; 15%, a failure to return personal belongings; and 12%, physical assaults.
- Almost 65% of migrants reported separation from the immediate family members they were traveling with during apprehension, detention or deportation. Individuals deported without their family traveling companions are twice as likely to suffer aggressions such as attacks and robbery once in Mexico.
- Nighttime deportation, which greatly increases the vulnerability of those deported, occurred for 28% of the migrants surveyed; one in seven women (or 15.8%) were deported at night.
- Migrants who suffer abuse, discrimination or mistreatment are unlikely to report the violation; fewer than one in twelve file a complaint.
The study points to various areas for reform: better and more extensive oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); a clear and accessible complaint process; more comprehensive training of CBP officers; use of body cameras; improved detention conditions; daytime deportations only; and tracking of family members to keep them together upon deportation. We urge you to write to your congressional representatives calling for these reforms and include a digital copy of Our Values on the Line, available at: http://jesuits.org/Assets/Publications/File/REPORT_2015_Our_Values_on_the_Line.pdf. If you’d like to write to your senators and congressperson in support of Pope Francis’s message on immigration, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. provides an easy-to-use contact form that forwards your letter to the correct recipients based on state and district: http://cqrcengage.com/jesuit/app/onestep-write-a-letter?0&engagementId=132181. Finally, to access the 2013 report, Documented Failures, please go to: http://www.jesuit.org/jesuits/wp-content/uploads/Kino_FULL-REPORT_web.pdf.