By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Sixteen Democratic lawmakers raised concerns on Thursday about the 2010 death of an illegal immigrant who was shocked with a stun gun by a border officer.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the 15 House members and a senator asked what reforms her agency had instituted as a result of incidents of deadly force involving Customs and Border Protection officers.
The lawmakers said they were "deeply troubled" by a television report from PBS that chronicled the 2010 death of border crosser Anastasio Rojas just inside California.
The letter comes at a time of mounting pressure on Customs and Border Protection, following a request earlier in the day from the American Civil Liberties Union for a federal probe into complaints from people who said they were abused by border agents when they entered the United States legally from Mexico.
"Your department must take serious steps to determine how to make your agents more accountable, and to improve the transparency of the department," the lawmakers said. "Only by taking these steps can you regain the trust you have lost."
The letter was signed by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez and 15 members of the House of Representatives, including Representatives Susan Davis of California and Raul Grijalva of Arizona.
The lawmakers said they were particularly troubled that, according to the PBS report, the initial account of Rojas' death in a government press release said he was not handcuffed, while internal interviews of officers at the scene showed he was cuffed when he was "beaten and tasered."
A Department of Homeland Security representative could not be reached for comment late on Thursday.
The ACLU report released on Thursday cited 11 examples of abuse and said legal border crossers were subjected to excessive force, detentions based on mistaken identity, and unnecessary seizure of documents and property.
In one 2011 incident detailed in the report, a woman identified as "Jane Doe" was summoned to a New Mexico border crossing to give a statement about her allegation of a previous sexual assault by a Customs and Border Protection officer.
When she arrived, she was separated from her family and an ACLU representative and patted down by two female Border Patrol officers, the report said.
"Following that meeting, Ms. Doe, traumatized by what had occurred on that day, no longer wanted to proceed with the criminal investigation," the report said, adding that she asked for it to be closed and it was.
The ACLU report asked the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security to promptly investigate the specific abuse allegations and undertake a comprehensive probe of similar complaints.
The customs agency said in a statement responding to the ACLU report that it "stresses honor and integrity" in every aspect of its mission.
"We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty," it said.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech)