ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico- Advocacy groups are alleging that U.S. Border Patrol agents are looting immigrants of possessions before deporting them to Mexico without their IDs or money.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and a coalition of organizations filed the administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.
The complaint says immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally were deported without their belongings in 26 cases. Advocates say immigrants were deported to cities in Mexico where they have no acquaintances.
DHS spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement that the department has a policy of safeguarding detainees' property.
"DHS will review the complaint once we receive it. DHS has strict standards in place to ensure that detainees' personal property - including funds, baggage and other effects - is safeguarded and controlled while they are in detention and returned to them when they are released from CBP/ICE custody or removed from the United States. Any allegation of missing property will be thoroughly investigated," Christensen said.
In one case, U.S. Border Patrol agents detained a 23-year-old man from Chihuahua, Mexico, on a road in New Mexico in February 2015 and forced him to sign a form abandoning his rights to his belongings, the complaint says.
The man did not understand the contents of the form, and the agents never advised him of his right to reclaim his belongings, according to the complaint.
The complaint also says border patrol agents seized nearly $400 from a 23-year-old woman from Guerrero after she was detained near an international bridge in Texas. Advocates say the money, which was part of the woman's life savings, was never returned.
"They are really eroding the rule of law at the border," ACLU of New Mexico attorney Kristin Greer Love said. "They are putting people at great vulnerability."