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Border Agents Accused Of Taking Migrants' Belongings

Advocacy groups have filed a complaint against the Homeland Security Department alleging that U.S. Border Patrol agents are taking the possessions of detained immigrants before sending them back to Mexico. And this isn’t the first time complaints were made.

The ACLU in New Mexico and other advocates complained Wednesday that the Border Patrol deported 26 Mexican nationals without their belongings. The allegations include agents taking cash from detained people suspected of crossing the border illegally to destroying identification papers and personal belongings.

"In some cases, people were threatened or coerced into abandoning this property," said ACLU attorney James Lyall. "In all cases, these people were put at severe risk of harm upon deportation because they didn’t have any money, any ID, any wherewithal or way to get their bearings when they were deported to an unfamiliar town."

Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in an email that any allegation of missing property would be thoroughly investigated. But she said Homeland Security has strict standards to safeguard the belongings of those taken into custody and returned once people are released.

Lyall however said complaints of this nature have been filed for many years such as a 2013 University of Arizona report on the matter.

"They found that more than one in three migrants reported items not returned to them. That is a staggering number. That is hundreds of thousands of people over the years," he said.

The administrative complaint says as a result, agents are putting newly deported migrants in harm’s way.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.