Luján, Colleagues Introduce Border Patrol Accountability Legislation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.)led the introduction of the Border Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act to create mechanisms for border residents and stakeholders to provide recommendations and oversight of border policies, while at the same time improving the training and enforcement accountability of U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The legislation would enact critical overhauls to immigration enforcement at the U.S. border that would help prevent abuses and increase scrutiny of incidents such as those carried out in Del Rio and many other communities along the border.

The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.). Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House by U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.).

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Establish a commission within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) comprised of representatives from northern and southern border states to develop policy recommendations, evaluate policies, and improve agent and officer safety.
  • Establish the DHS Office of the Ombudsman dedicated to investigating complaints, identifying systemic issues, and providing recommendations to improve border and immigration activities.
  • Create a border liaison office within U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Mandate certain training and education for CBP officers and agents, such as community policing practices, lawful use of force and de-escalation tactics, and history and ethics of asylum law.
  • Require reports from DHS, CBP, and GAO, such as: an assessment of staffing needs and border security strategy, use of body-worn cameras, use of force policies, and death of migrants while in custody.

“I’m proud to introduce the Border Accountability, Oversight and Community Engagement Act to increase accountability at the U.S. border and to help prevent abuses, such as those carried out in Del Rio and many other communities along the border. Border communities know their communities best, and it’s far past time that these communities are part of the conversation around border policy,”said Senator Luján. “That’s what this legislation will accomplish, and I look forward to working with Representative Escobar and my colleagues to advance this legislation.”

“Protecting our border is a sacrosanct responsibility we have as a nation, but the enforcement of our immigration laws should always adhere to our highest values. I am proud to be joining my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that will increase oversight and accountability of immigration enforcement at the border. It is my hope we can pass this bill and empower local leaders to be involved in the development of policies that most impact their communities,” said Senator Menendez.

“As long as the United States government fails to treat immigrants at the Southern border with dignity and respect, we cannot fully claim that our nation is living up to its highest values and ideals,” said Senator Booker. “This legislation will give Congress, advocates, and border communities greater oversight to help identify and reform systemic issues that currently plague our immigration system, which in turn will better protect the human rights of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.”

“Border communities deserve to have a seat at the table when it comes to developing and navigating sound border policies,” said Senator Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Luján to introduce this legislation that increases accountability within our border agencies, requires consistent community input in the development and implementation of policies, and ensures border agents and officers are trained to treat migrants including vulnerable populations humanely and with respect.

“The persistent lack of accountability and inhumane behavior we have seen from Border Patrol agents in Del Rio and in other incidents across the southern border are unacceptable,” said Senator Padilla. “We must hold our federal law enforcement to a higher standard, provide proper oversight of these agencies and ensure our border communities have a seat at the table. The Border Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act will help to reform our immigration enforcement practices and takes steps to reduce and prevent abuses of power.”

“The images of the horrific abuses carried out by Border Patrol agents against Black and Haitian migrants in Del Rio will be forever burned into our collective memory as a despicable example of the consequences of systemic impunity of law enforcement officers. Those of us who live and work at the border know all too well that the abuses we witnessed in Del Rio were not the first, nor will they be the last unless Congress takes immediate action,” said Fernando García, Executive Director, Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). “If the legislative proposals from Rep. Escobar and Sen. Luján on Border Patrol accountability, oversight, and transparency had already been in place, much of the systemic impunity and abuse seen across the border region would no longer exist, as we would have established systems to review and resolve cases and procedures via oversight from independent and neutral parties in conjunction with border stakeholders. It is time for our members of Congress to ensure federal immigration officers and agencies are accountable to the people and pass the Homeland Security Improvement Act in the House and Border Accountability, Oversight & Community Engagement Act in the Senate now.”

“For decades, CBP has engaged in relentless and repeated civil rights violations of immigrant communities, while openly defying attempts at reform,” said Shaw Drake, Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel at the ACLU of Texas. “While much more must be done to reign in these notorious immigration agencies, such as safeguards against abuse and measures to hold officers responsible for misconduct; the Border Accountability, Oversight, and Community Engagement Act represents a step forward in the ongoing fight to hold them accountable. Specifically, the bill includes provisions to increase border community engagement, require the collection of data on agency actions, strengthen Congressional oversight, and establish an ombudsman office – all of which are welcome and long-overdue moves to help hold this rogue agency accountable for the harm and trauma they inflict. We look forward to working with Senator Luján and other congressional leaders to strengthen the bill as it moves towards passage.”

Full text of the legislation can be found HERE



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