-- This is the full statement ABC News received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection regarding Brian Ross’s “Life Death at the Border” report, which will air on 20/20 on Friday, July 28, 2017.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducted an investigation following the incident at the San Ysidro port of entry in November 2013. Additionally, the San Diego Police Department conducted an in-custody death investigation. On January 24, 2014, the SDPD provided a copy of their investigation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which declined to file charges.
CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility continued to review the case spending nearly a year that included a national-level review board, which, in September 2014 also determined that no further action was warranted and the officers involved were not disciplined.
CBP Officers are our front line representatives protecting our country. In the San Diego Field Office alone, our officers encountered more than 75 million people last fiscal year. In spite of those vast numbers of daily interactions, our officers work hard to do the right thing every day, ensuring that they allow legitimate travelers into the U.S. while stopping illegal activity as well as working to ensure the well-being of the travelers that we are encounter.
With regard to the Guatemalan girls to which you refer, the case is actually still under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and I would tell you that CBP agents and officers are committed to treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect while enforcing the laws of the United States. CBP takes all allegations of mistreatment seriously, and does not tolerate actions that are not consistent with our core values of Vigilance, Service to Country and Integrity.
Travelers who feel that have been mistreated have a variety of options to report situations encountered while traveling via airports, train stations and U.S. Border crossings. Among those are the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) and the CBP Info Center, where travelers can call to file a complaint so CBP can address the allegations and take any necessary actions. Travelers can also request to see a supervisor on-site to address any concerns. CBP is committed to following up on and addressing any allegations if the complainant’s information is shared.
All reports of misconduct are coordinated with the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) for independent review and assessment. Some allegations are retained by the OIG for investigation while others are referred back to the Joint Intake Center for assignment to the appropriate office for investigation, fact-finding, or immediate management action. If misconduct is substantiated, appropriate corrective action will be initiated.
In August 2014, CBP initiated new reporting protocols to ensure all complainants who allege excessive force are interviewed prior to being processed for removal. All CBP components have been directed to immediately notify the Office of Professional Responsibility upon receipt of a complaint of alleged excessive force and to not remove individuals until OPR has had the opportunity to conduct an investigative interview of the complainant.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is fully committed to earning the public trust through accountability and transparency within the law. To that end CBP has posted guidance on its website to allow the public to easily file a complaint or provide feedback at https://help.cbp.gov/app/home. The agency uses the feedback to improve its performance.
The CBP Information Center also has increased its Spanish-language capacity to provide improved service, accountability and transparency to those who speak Spanish via the fully-integrated Spanish-language service at https://helpspanish.cbp.gov/.