After much anticipation from human rights advocates in the Southern Border Region, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report yesterday entitled, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Use of Force Training and Actions to Address Use of Force Incidents.”
The revelation of eye-witness footage documenting the beating and killing of San Diego resident, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, by over a dozen border agents prompted a national outcry from the public as well as 16 members of Congress for oversight and accountability over Customs and Border Protection for their use of force cases. Since 2010, border guards have killed at least twenty people.
At the request of letters from 16 members of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security carried out a review of 2,000 records of alleged abuse (out of 21,000) that took place along the border between 2007 and 2012. They determined that nearly two-thirds (63%), or approximately 1,200 incidents, involved possible excessive use of force.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), a coalition of nearly 60 organizations from the southern border, has been documenting stories of abuse and has been at the forefront of pressing for accountability and oversight over CBP over the past 3 years. After reviewing the report, representatives of the SBCC issued these responses.
"This is an incomplete response to the question: Is Customs and Border Protection out of control?” said Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego and co-chair of the SBCC. "While the report answers some questions, it doesn’t give us specifics on what steps are taken when agents are alleged to use excessive force and, given rash of incidents, what reforms or investigations are being undertaken. Where is the accountability and oversight of agents?"
"We need tracking of excessive use of force at the Department of Homeland Security and a formal process to evaluate and investigate force incidents." states Christian Ramírez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. "Without a clear mechanism to identify misconduct, investigate it, and hold agents accountable, the agency will continue to operate with impunity and endanger the lives of migrants and border residents and undermine our system of laws."
“If any metropolitan police department was involved in 19 fatal shootings in the span of two years, we would be appalled and would expect that that they would look at best practices from other agencies to reduce use-of-force incidents, like body-worn cameras for officers,” said Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights. “CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, should be doing the same, but there is little indication in this report that they are,” Gaubeca, co-chair of SBCC, continued.
Report does not address accountability and further erodes trust.
The so-called “Dream 9” walked out to freedom Wednesday in the parking lot of a Tucson Greyhound bus station just as they walked into custody — wearing their high school graduation caps and gowns.
As a fellow immigration attorney, and member of AILA, I think David Leopold misses the point. Does he think that Obama woke up one morning and decided to create DACA? DACA, Prosecutorial Discretion, and any other recent minor gains in immigrant rights only came through grassroots pressure from DREAMers, the Undocubus folks, and others. To say it is a “publicity stunt” is ludicrous. The DREAM 9 speak quite well for themselves, and I don’t pretend to speak for them. But to me this is not much different than the Freedom Riders and the lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement who knew they would get arrested, or get their heads busted, or worse. Or to quote Frederick Douglas:
“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
It is inexcusable for an immigration lawyer to make sweeping generalizations about the merits of an individual’s asylum claim without first having command of ALL of the facts. Leopold’s statements are both dangerous and misleading, and may serve to poison these kids’ ability to present a favorable application. Moreover, a favorable exercise of discretion in granting humanitarian parole is in direct correlation to the amount of negative publicity the administration receives for their actions. Leopold has undermined their ability to fight the public relations war with patently inaccurate and uninformed statements.
And he calls himself an advocate.
Immigration attorney David Leopold says the #Dream9 have gone too far. Either that, or white men like him who make their living off of undocumented immigrants in a broken system haven’t gone far enough.