Border Control Abuse: 4-Year-Old Held More Than 20 Hours Before Deported

Reports of Border Patrol abuse are widespread, but in cases where lethal force is used, criminal charges against agents are extremely rare.

At age 4, Emily Ruiz was detained for more than 20 hours and deported to Guatemala for months, although she is a U.S. citizen. Now at 6 years old, her family filed a lawsuit that claims Emily has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her case is part of 10 lawsuits filed by immigration groups against Customs and Border Protection. Reports of Border Patrol abuse are widespread, but in cases where lethal force is used, criminal charges against agents are extremely rare.

The complaints allege unlawful mistreatment and discrimination at the hands of agents:

1. 4-Year-Old Emily Ruiz, A Citizen, Deported And Mistreated While Detained

The lawsuit describes the difficult conditions Emily was subjected to for the 20 hours of her detention: She was put in a cold room with her grandfather, without bed, blanket or pillow so that her only option was to nap on the floor. Emily received nothing but a cookie and a soda for the duration, and was deprived of contact with her parents for over 14 hours. Throughout the day, she “had bouts of hysterical and prolonged crying.” When the agent spoke to her parents, who are undocumented, the lawsuit alleges an agent told them he could not send Emily home to “illegals” and threatened to send her an adoption center. Upon her return, Emily was diagnosed with PTSD.

2. 63 Year Old Suffered Stroke

63-year-old Elizabeth Takem-aishetu suffered a stroke while detained. She was traveling home by bus to New York when an agent boarded the bus and picked her out for questioning. She claims she was held for hours without food and water and was denied use of a bathroom. Forced to sit in her urine-soaked jeans, she had a stroke that continues to affect her.

3. Naturalized Citizen Subjected To ‘Citizenship Checkup’

Lucy Rogers, a naturalized U.S. citizen who works as a medical interpreter for immigrant farmworkers, says she was pulled over for a “citizenship checkup.” An agent arrested her and the two farmworkers she traveled with, suspecting she was trafficking undocumented immigrants. She was held for hours and her car GPS was seized.

4. Woman Forcibly Thrown To Ground

An American citizen alleges she was “forcibly thrown” to the ground, after she crossed to the Mexican side of the border for 15 minutes to pick up keys. The agent allegedly grabbed her, threw her to the ground, and handcuffed her “so tightly that the fire department later had to be summoned to cut the handcuffs.”

5. Four People Thrown In Freezing Holding Cells

Four immigrants crossing the border were detained and claim they were put in freezing holding cells. Their lips and fingertips turned blue, and one woman’s face hurt and peeled. They were given no access to a shower or blanket, and had a single thermos they could share.

Rebecca Leber is a research assistant for the ThinkProgress war room. She graduated from the University of Rochester and holds a B.A. in political science and English with a minor in economics.

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