DHS Time Line of Abuse under Trump

Migrants in Cages, mother and child

More than two years after election night, Trump has left a trail of cruelty and destruction against immigrants that we must not forget, and that we must find a way to rectify. Since its inception in 2002, DHS has combined the tasks of immigration system oversight and prosecution of the few immigrants who actually do commit crimes. This has resulted in the conflation, in many American minds, of immigration with criminality. From day one, Trump has taken advantage of this false perception and made sure to reinforce his preferred image of immigrants as unworthy of humane consideration, and to advance his goals of zero immigration, and of amping up racial hatred towards our neighbors to the south as well as to what he calls, “shithole countries”.

Also from day one,Trump (and his white supremacist coterie within the White House–at first Steve Bannon, and still, Stephen Miller, et al) have sought, and largely been successful, in inflicting maximum unjust, undemocratic changes within our asylum and immigration system to severely punish every poor person of color who dares to seek refuge in our country.

We are supposed to be a country of laws that enforce an international legal obligation to protect people. Instead, Trump has turned our nation into a country of lawless enforcers of purposeful child abuse, medical neglect and aggressive malpractice. He found a way, at first, to rip children from their families, and then, to hold families in concentration camps (with a goal of keeping them there indefinitely), and is committed to wholesale, willful, re-victimizing of all immigrants coming across our southern border. One of the driving forces of his immigration policies is to withhold due process, by whatever method necessary.   

In memory to those Trump has hurt, and in a call to action to help those we can, this is a timeline of many of the victims of the reign of terror at the hands of Trump’s DHS. This is not a comprehensive list and only covers the Trump Administration.

DHS Timeline of Abuse

January 25, 2017:  First week in office, Trump issues executive order overturning enforcement priorities that had been in place for nearly a decade to target virtually any unauthorized immigrant – regardless of their length of residence in the U.S. or their social, economic and family ties to the U.S. Included in “Enhancing Public Safety of the Interior of the United States” was a provision for hiring 15,000 new ICE and Border Patrol officers, despite a Federal Hiring Freeze ordered by Executive Order two days prior. 

April 12, 2017: Washington Post leaks Administration “Progress Report” outlining fast tracking hires for Border Patrol Agents, including doing away with polygraph testing. 

May 2017: NBC Broke a story about an elite Border Patrol unit at Newark Airport that engaged in ritualistic hazing involving a so called “Rape Table” 11 Officers, including 3 supervisors, were disciplined and the unit was disbanded a few days after the story broke. 

July 2017: Four humanitarian aid workers from No More Deaths are arrested for providing life saving aid to migrants crossing the desert.

August 2, 2017: A report using data from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) shows that 95.9% of the 1,255 cases of misconduct that CBP investigated (60% of which were complaints of abuse) resulted in “no action” against the officer or agent accused of misconduct.

August 28, 2017: ICE Plans to Start Destroying Records of Immigrant Abuse, Including Sexual Assault and Deaths in Custody 

November 15, 2017: John Roth, the then-Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security, warns in Congressional testimony that rapid hire of DHS officers (CBP & ICE) historically leads to misconduct. (Note: Senate just passed a bill introduced by Martha McSally to speed up the process of hiring)

December 14, 2017: Trump reverses Obama era ban on detaining pregnant women. Since the ban was enacted, the number of miscarriages in ICE custody along have doubled

January 17, 2018: Humanitarian Aid Group, No More Deaths, publushes a report detailing that 3,600 jugs of water the volunteers placed on remote trails near Arivaca for crossers to combat extreme heat and dehydration were slashed, stomped on, poured out, dyed, or tampered with from 2012 to 2015. life savings water was destroyed in 415 incidents, or more than twice a week by Border Patrol Agents, publishing many videos of the destruction. Hours later, Aid worker, Scott Warren was arrested in what many call a retaliation. He faced 20 years in prison.

February  26, 2018: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit seeking to reunite an asylum-seeking mother and her 7-year-old daughter fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, only to be forcibly torn from each other in the U.S. and detained separately 2,000 miles apart.

April 6, 2018: The Trump administration announces the “zero-tolerance” policy, ordering the Department of Homeland Security to prosecute all adult migrants entering the country illegally. The new policy leads to the separation of thousands of families.

May 22, 2018: ACLU releases thousands of reports of child abuse in CBP custody

April 11, 2018: Nielsen denies that there is a family separation policy 

  • Punched a child’s head three times
  • Kicked a child in the ribs
  • Used a stun gun on a boy, causing him to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head
  • Ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then punched him several times
  • Verbally abused detained children, calling them dogs and “other ugly things”
  • Denied detained children permission to stand or move freely for days and threatened children who stood up with transfer to solitary confinement in a small, freezing room
  • Denied a pregnant minor medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth
  • Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed”
  • Left a 4-pound premature baby and her minor mother in an overcrowded and dirty cell full of sick people, against medical advice
  • Threw out a child’s birth certificate and threatened him with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.

April 20, 2018: The New York Times reports that more than 700 children have been stripped away from their parents since October 2017, 100 of which are under the age of 4.

May 2018: Toddler Mariee Juárez dies after respiratory infection contracted in ICE detention went untreated until her release.

May 15, 2018: 2 year old Guatamalan Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez dies from pneumonia after being detained.

May 23, 2018: Border Patrol Agent shoots and kills 20 year old Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez moments after she crossed into the US in Rio Bravo Texas. The agent changed his story first claiming she was armed, then claiming she rushed him. She was unarmed. He shot her in the head and an eye witness counters the agent’s account.

May 25, 2018: Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, a trans woman dies in ICE custody. Autopsy later showed she died of dehydration and cardiac arrest and was beaten while in custody. 

June 15, 2018: DHS reports that nearly 1,995 total children were separated from their parents at the border from April 19 to May 31 under the “zero-tolerance” policy.

June 18, 2018: Parents in custody are reporting ICE Agents separated children from their parents by telling them they must be bathed, only for them to never be reunited.

June 20, 2018:Tent cities” are created to house separated children. Additionally, DHS reports that 2,342 children were separated at the border from May 5 to June 9.

June 20, 2018: Trump signs an executive order that he claims will end family separation – but instead makes the situation worse by instituting a new indefinite family detention policy.

June 27, 2018: A judge orders an end to family separation. The judge rules that children under the age of 5 must be reunited within 14 days and children age 5 and older within 30 days – a deadline that the administration would twice fail to meet (please refer to July 10, 2018 and July 26, 2018).

July 5, 2018: DHS officials report that records “linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed.”

July 9, 2018: Buzzfeed reports testimony of 5 women in ICE and CBP custody who were mishandled, abused and refused treatment who eventually miscarried.

July 10, 2018: The Trump administration fails to meet the first court-ordered deadline, reuniting only 38 children under the age of 5.

July 2018: Office of Refugee Resettlement identifies 2,654 children for reunification with their families.

July 18, 2018: Reuters publishes statements of the abuses that from DHS, including: physical and emotional abuse, filthy conditions, and inadequate food and water for children and families in immigration detention.

  • A nursing mother named Serafin, who said she fled Mexico after a cartel member threatened to rape her and kill her baby, said she was given too little food at a facility in San Ysidro, California. “I am not producing enough breast milk to feed my baby because I am not eating enough,” she said in her statement. “My daughter cries a lot because she is hungry.”
  • Detainees refer to some of the facilities as “hieleras,” Spanish for “ice boxes” because they are so cold. Larger spaces with indoor fencing are referred to as “perreras” or “dog kennels.”
  • Children in the facilities were often held in separate cells from their parents, according to the statements.
  • A woman named Leydi, held in Chula Vista, California, described watching young children trying to touch their parents through metal fences.
  • “The mothers tried to reach their children, and I saw children pressing up against the fence of the cage to try to reach out,” she said. “But officials pulled the children away and yelled at their mothers.”

July 26, 2018: POLITICO reports that the Trump administration deported 436 parents without their children. 

July 26, 2018: The Trump administration claims that the parents of 711 children are “not eligible for reunification.”

July 29, 2018: Reports reveal that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials coerced parents to sign documents they didn’t understand to deport them without their children.

August 2, 2018: The administration argues that it is not responsible for reuniting the remaining children and suggests that non-governmental organizations should do it instead.

August 9, 2018: 572 children remain separated from their parents.

September 3, 2018: Melissa Ramirez is murdered by Border Patrol Supervisor, Juan David Ortiz. 

September 6, 2018: DHS announces its plan to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement, which is a set of protections for underage migrant children in government custody, saying they want to detain children more than 72 hours.

September 13, 2018: Claudine Ann Luera is murdered by Border Patrol Supervisor, Juan David Ortiz. 

September 15, 2018: Janelle Ortiz and Griselda Cantu are murdered by Border Patrol Supervisor, Juan David Ortiz. 

September 25, 2018: An April 2018 DHS memo reveals that the administration was aware that its “zero tolerance” policy would result in family separations.

September 29, 2018: 10 year old Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle from El Salvador dies in custody.

October 12, 2018: The Trump administration considers a new family separation policy.

October 15, 2018: ACLU reports that 120 children remain separated from their parents – 50 with parents who were deported and 70 whose parents were still in the United States.

November 8, 2018: DHS and the Justice Department sign 90 day asylum ban for border crossers not crossing at ports of entry. Asylum seekers are forced to wait weeks in Mexico in dangerous conditions at ports of entry because CBP begins “metering” the number of asylum cases it handles each day. Desperate, they try to cross into the US

November 26, 2018: 60 Minutes reports that the administration lied about when the zero tolerance policy started and how long it was in effect.

November 17, 2018: As up to 12,000 asylum seekers who’d crammed into several shelters in Tijuana — a situation the city’s mayor has called a “humanitarian crisis.”

But the tents quickly ran out. Now families are using branches, garbage bags and donated clothes to build makeshift shelters — anything to keep them from being exposed to the elements.

“It’s too cold here,” one little boy said Saturday while rummaging through a pile of donated clothes, looking for a sweater.

Yeseniq Mejia, 30, who is seven months pregnant, lives in one of the larger tents at Benito Juarez. She made the grueling journey from San Pedro Sula, where the first caravan started in Honduras, with her two sons and husband.

Mejia was trying to decide whether to stay in Mexico or apply for asylum in the United States. She says she was worried about being separated from her children.

“They could even keep my baby,” Mejia said says, clutching her stomach.

Some immigrants complain of shakedowns and kidnappings by gangs and corrupt officials, particularly across the border in Texas.

November 18, 2018: A Russian asylum seeker, Mergensana Amar died by suicide after being detained in solitary confinement by ICE at the Northwest Detention Center in Seattle awaiting immigration proceedings. He was held there for nearly a year.

November 21, 2018: Lonnie Schwartz, the Border Patrol agent who shot and unarmed boy, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, is found not guilty by a jury. Schwartz shot the boy 16 times, through a fence, down a ravine, while 2 other agents didn’t see a threat.

November 26, 2018: Border Patrol fires tear gas at desperate attempting to breach the border to seek asylum. 

December 8, 2018: 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin dies of sepsis infection in CBP custody.

December 24, 2018: 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo dies of the flu and a bacterial infection in CBP custody.

December 2018: HHS identifies 149 more children for reunification.

January 17, 2019: The Office of the Inspector General releases a report revealing that thousands more children than were initially reported were separated from their families and that they won’t know how many.

January 25th, 2019: Migrant Protection Protocol is implemented forcing asylum seekers to wait for their asylum hearings in Mexico. The same day, it is announced that the busiest port of entry in the US will only be processing 20 asylum seekers per day. Prior to this metering, the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana was processing 100 cases per day. 

February 2019:  Jason Andrew McGilvray, who was working as a Border Patrol agent in Calexico, California, encountered an immigrant identified in court documents as “BSS,” who had entered the US after jumping a border fence. After he was apprehended and placed in custody, McGilvray “willfully struck BSS in the face with the intent to deprive BSS of his constitutional right against unreasonable force during search and seizure.”

February 18, 2019: 45-year-old migrant dies in CBP custody. Cause of death unknown.

February 21, 2019: The Texas Civil Rights Project identifies 272 family separations in McAllen TX since DHS was supposedly ending the practice.

February 22, 2019: A 24 year old pregnant woman from Honduras miscarries in ICE custody.

February 26, 2019: The House Judiciary Committee holds an oversight hearing on Trump’s family separation policy. The hearing finds that key officials never expressed concern over family separation, that the administration prioritized prosecuting parents over keeping families together, that no trauma experts were consulted, and that separations continued without child welfare expert input.

February 27, 2019: New York Times reports that thousands of immigrant children were sexually abused while in US Custody as unaccompanied minors or having been separated from their families. 

March 6, 2019: In testimony before Congress, Nielsen lies once again and admits she was “not familiar” with the effects of toxic stress inflicted by family separation.

March 6, 2019: Nielsen urges Congress to support the president’s national emergency at the border.

March 18, 2019: 40-year-old migrant dies in CBP custody after being diagnosed with flulike symptoms, liver failure, and renal failure.

March 19, 2019: MSNBC reports that the Trump administration tracked the reproductive cycles of migrant girls in custody.

March 29, 2019: Migrants in an outdoor camp were being held in unsafe and inhumane conditions in El Paso under a bridge with barbed wire fence. CBP assured press that people were only held there for a few days. 

April 30, 2019: 16 year old Guatemalan child  Juan de León Gutiérrez dies from unknowns causes. 

May 2019: DHS whistle blower details inhumane use of solitary confinement in ICE custody, mostly involving those with mental illness. 

May 14, 2019: 2 year old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez died after weeks in a hospital after being held in the El Paso coutdoor camp with his mother.

May 20, 2019: During the trial of CBP agent who ran migrant over with his official truck, the defense attorney outlined disturbing text messages between many agents as evidence that a culture of violence towards migrants is insidious in CBP. One of the texting agents was a CBP agent who shot 16 times and killed an unarmed teen down a hill and ravine through the border fence.

May 20, 2019: 16 year old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez died of the flu while in CBP custody.

June 5, 2019: Trump Administration cancels  English classes, soccer, legal aid for unaccompanied child migrants in U.S. shelters

June 11, 2019: Human “Dog Pound” was detailed where migrants were being detained outdoors near the Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso. The men said they had been held there more than 30 days, without showering or changing clothes in 90 degree heat.

June 30, 2019: Federal prosecutors decide to retry aid worker, Scott Warren, whose original trial ended in a hung jury on June 11.

June 23, 2019: Doctor exposes conditions in CBP facilities as “torture facilities.” 

“children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears … caring for infants they’ve just met.”

June 30, 2019: Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres died in ICE custody.

July 1, 2019: A secret Facebook Group for current and retired members of CBP including at least one supervisor is exposed by ProPublica.  Agents joked about migrant deaths, called migrants animals and posted racist comments about Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, including a doctored photo depicting the President sexually assaulting her.

Week of July 1, 2019: Several members of Congress visited detention facilities in Texas and described the torturous conditions as well as brazen, disrespectful attitudes of CBP Agents.

Included in their accounts:

Rep Judy Chu: “If you want water, just drink from a toilet.” 

AOC: Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets.

After I forced myself into a cell w/ women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as “psychological warfare” – waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them whores, etc.

Rep Madelaine Dean: 15 women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families. 

Rep Joe Kennedy: @CBP was very resistant to Congressional oversight. They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video. Atmosphere was contentious and uncooperative.

No way to keep a child or innocent human being.  Group of 13 women from Cuba were in tears when we spoke with them.

Rep Lori Trehan Toddlers quarantined in a 8×10’ room sleeping on the floor w/the flu.

Young girl in a hot warehouse coloring with a chain link fence around her.

Women sobbing in a crowded cell because they were separated from their kids. 

Joaquin Castro: some held for 50 days—for them to be denied showers for up to 15 days and life-saving medication. For some, it also means being separated from their children. This is El Paso Border Station #1.

July 2, 2019: DHS released report of overcrowding, unsanitary and inhumane conditions in CBP facilities. Sleeping on the floor, no toothbrushes, no blankets or pillows, people stacked like sardines, children being punished for losing items. Members of Congress were restricted but managed to visit the facilities. 

July 12, 2019: Carla Provost, Chief of CBP, who expressed outrage at the contents of the secret CBP Facebook group is exposed as having been a member of the group for years. The Intercept identified chief patrol agents overseeing whole Border Patrol sectors, multiple patrol agents in charge of individual stations, and ranking officials in the Border Patrol’s union, who have enjoyed direct access to President Donald Trump. 

July 19, 2019: Case managers document dozens of cases of abuse and retaliation against children being held in ICE custody in Yuma Arizona. 

August 1, 2019: Physicians wrote a letter to members of Congress warning that at least 3 children have died of preventable illness in CBP custody. Doctors advise that the flu vaccine be administered to all detainees.

August 14, 2019: A guard at an ICE Detention Center runs over a line of peaceful protesters. The police did not question protesters, two of whom were injured, one with a broken leg. Police also didn’t arrest the driver. Then guards pepper sprayed the protesters. 3 additional people were treated at a hospital for injuries related to the pepper sray.

August 20, 2019: CBP announces it won’t give flu vaccines to detainees being held in overcrowded detention facilities, concerning the Center for Disease Control.

August 22. 2109: CBP agent Jason Andrew McGilvray, pleads guilty to assaulting a border crosser and resigns. The case was previously unreported until the charges were filed 

September 6, 2019: Pregnant woman from El Salvador waiting to seek asylum in the US is taken to the hospital, where doctors gave her medication to stop contractions that had started. Agents then almost immediately sent her back to Mexico to wait in unsafe conditions.

September 11, 2019: ICE clumsily releases a poorly redacted document detailing plans for a “hyper realistic” “urban warfare” facility in Georgia. The plan is to create replica cities mirroring an Arizona City and Chicago to simulate residential houses, apartments, hotels, government facilities, and commercial buildings to train ICE’s Swat Teams.

September 26, 2019: Attorneys for the city of Southaven Mississippi argue that the family of an undocumented man mistakenly shot in 2018 in his home by police do not deserve compensation for the wrongful death because his immigration status meant he has no rights, contrary to the Constitutional Amendments 4 and 14 and possibly setting up precedence for further erosion of rights.

October 31, 2019: A 37 year old man from Camaroon died in ICE custody of a brain aneurysm.

October 4, 2019: Trump administration announces that the US will deny immigrant visas to anyone who doesn’t have health insurance or proof that they can pay for healthcare.