“They treated me like a dog…They asked if [I] wanted water, but when [I] responded ‘yes,’ they wouldn’t give [me] any.” -2010, 16 year-old boy from Guatemala, in A Culture of Cruelty.
When we, as Americans, hear about human rights abuses we imagine distant mass atrocities, reminiscent of genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda or widespread abuses in today’s Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia. We fail to associate human rights violations with our own country, occurring within our own nation’s borders. However, the organization No More Deaths has released a shocking new report, A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody, detailing widespread abuse of migrants by the U.S. Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The report records over 30,000 incidences of human rights abuse from interviews with 12,895 individuals. The testimonies from such a large number show that these encounters with U.S. Border Patrol are not the exception but the rule among migrants along much of the Southwestern borderlands.
The report outlines and provides statistics and examples for the following concerns: Denial of or insufficient water, denial of or insufficient food, failure to provide medical treatment or access to medical professionals, inhumane processing center conditions, verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, dangerous transportation practices, separation of family members, dangerous repatriation practices, failure to return personal belongs, and due process concerns.
The Bible is full of entreaties to love strangers. As Christians we need to express love to desperate migrants who are alone, separated from family, detained, and abused. We should urge policymakers to put an immediate end to abuse, enact laws for strict standards of custody, enforce those standards, and create a transparent oversight system. National and international attention must be drawn to the violation of human rights standards taking place within the United States.