Customs and Border Protection Must Be Held Accountable for Excessive Use of Force, Abuse and Corruption
Yesterday, Univision reported that a Border Patrol agent fatally shot an unarmed undocumented woman in the head, according to a video of the incident by a bystander. In the video:
a woman yells at an agent: “Why are you mistreating them? Why are you mistreating them? Why did you (shoot) at the girl? You killed her. He killed the girl. She’s laying there and she’s dead.”
Although reports suggest this incident is being investigated by the FBI and the Texas Rangers, it is unclear whether the results of the investigation will be publicly released or anyone will be held accountable. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a pattern and practice of secrecy in cases involving excessive use of force, abuse and corruption.
CBP’s Serious Lack of Accountability
The Border Patrol is part of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the largest law enforcement agency in the country and one of the largest in the world with a budget of $14 billion and more than 40,000 agents carrying 100,000 authorized guns.
Despite its size, it has a small and weak accountability structure, seriously lacking in funding, staff, and authority. A 2016 report by Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) compared staffing ratios for CBP’s internal affairs to comparable organizations and found that CBP internal affairs would have to hire 350 more investigators just to be at the same level as the FBI and the New York City Police Department. But nine months after receiving the HSAC recommendation, CBP had only initiated plans to hire 57 investigators.
According to Bryan Schatz of Mother Jones, in a piece dated April 24, 2018:
In early 2016, the Department of Homeland Security declared that corrupt border agents “pose a national security threat” and found that the CBP had a ‘broken disciplinary process.’ James Tomsheck, the former head of Internal Affairs at CBP, has repeatedly warned about corruption at the agency. He maintains that its background investigations of new employees are sorely lacking, that it sweeps corruption allegations under the rug, and that it largely resists efforts to clean house. In an interview with Mother Jones last year, Tomsheck claimed that the head of the Border Patrol agents’ union had ‘opposed every integrity proposal’ he had made during his eight years at CBP.
In 2016, the Homeland Security Advisory Council, stated that CBP “has never developed a truly CBP-wide process for receiving, tracking and responding to public complaints. Its disciplinary process takes far too long to be an effective deterrent.”
Even the previous Commissioner of CBP has stated, “We had a history of not addressing things as directly as we should.”
Excessive Use of Force, Assault, and Child Abuse Unchecked
The media and non-profit organizations have revealed multiple incidents of excessive use of force, assault, and child abuse.
Recently, The Guardian reported:
The US government has paid out more than $60m in legal settlements [between October 2005 to July 2017] where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention, an analysis of more than a decade of official data reveals.
After four years of requests and a lawsuit, the ACLU finally obtained documents showing a pattern and practice of abuse of migrant children by the Border Patrol that has been unchecked. Moreover, when the ACLU submitted 116 credible complaints of migrant child abuse to the DHS Office of the Inspector General (IG), the IG closed its investigation less than four months later without explanation. As ACLU explains, “complaints are routinely closed or deemed ‘unsubstantiated’ without any meaningful investigation.”
Government documents recently obtained by the Project for Government Oversight show at least 200 Border Patrol agents arrested for corruption from October 2004 through mid-March 2018.
Despite this, Trump Wants to Grow the Border Patrol
The Trump administration has asked for 5,000 more agents, but it can’t even fill existing positions and retain agents already in its ranks.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch, a new project of America’s Voice, said:
It is outrageous that an unarmed, undocumented women was shot in the head by an agent sworn to uphold law and justice. This incident must be thoroughly investigated and the agent must be held accountable. Moreover, it is time for CBP, and especially the Border Patrol, to be held accountable for multiple incidents of excessive use of force, abuse and corruption. CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the country but fails even basic accountability. There is no excuse.