WASHINGTON — DESPITE efforts by human-rights groups to halt violations, undocumented people and United States citizens continue to suffer abuse along the US-Mexico border and in south Florida, according to the American Friends Service Committee.
A report released Tuesday by the Quaker organization said that 1,274 cases of abuse - including physical, psychological, and verbal abuse, as well as destruction of property and inappropriate searches - were cited at five target areas between May 1989 and May 1991.
"It is a serious and continuing problem," says Maria Jimenez, head of the committee's Immigration Law Enforcement Monitoring Project (ILEMP).
Ms. Jimenez adds concern that a planned increase of US Border Patrol forces will bring higher levels of abuse.
More than three-quarters of the alleged abuses were committed by either Border Patrol officers or members of other branches of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, the report says. The incidents were reported to ILEMP by community organizations in San Diego, southern Arizona, El Paso, the Lower Rio Grande Area, and south Florida.
Of the alleged abuses documented, the most common was verbal or psychological (28 percent), followed by physical abuse, illegal or inappropriate searches, denial of due process, illegal or inappropriate seizures, destruction of property, and violations of Native Americans' rights. More than 70 percent of the alleged victims were either Mexican or Mexican-American.
Two previous reports by ILEMP, in 1988 and 1989, also detailed alleged abuses, but it is not possible to conclude if abuse is increasing or decreasing, since the reporting methods are unscientific, says Jimenez.
The key point, she says, is that they continue, despite a requirement under the Immigration Act of 1990 to institute regulations on use of force, standards for enforcement activities, officer training, and a faster review process.
A year later, "the policies and mechanisms of accountability continue to be lacking," says Jimenez.
Verne Jervis, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, says the regulations have been completed and are "going through the administration for approval"
Responding to the broader allegations of abuse on the border, Mr. Jervis was unequivocal. "The greatest abuse is from organizations like this," he said. "Millions of people are pouring across the border, and they're doing everything they can to undermine immigration law with this constant harping."