WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Monday known as for a evaluation of secretive groups throughout the U.S. Border Patrol which have a number of roles, together with defending brokers in opposition to potential civil legal responsibility.
Ten committee and subcommittee chairs within the Home and Senate requested that the Authorities Accountability Workplace look into the groups, after current questions from lawmakers to the Border Patrol and its mum or dad company, Customs and Border Safety, in regards to the items’ mission and the scope of their authority went largely unanswered.
The Home Committees on Homeland Safety and Oversight and Reform introduced their very own joint investigation into the items, referred to as essential incident groups, on Monday as properly.
The inquiries come as the brand new commissioner of Customs and Border Safety, Chris Magnus, is going through a protracted to-do listing, notably relating to overseeing the Border Patrol and its entrenched, insular tradition. Mr. Magnus, who got here to the job after serving because the police chief in Tucson, Ariz., has promised to carry transparency to the company.
“We have now grave issues in regards to the lack of transparency within the function of Border Patrol’s essential incident groups,” Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney of New York and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the respective leaders of the Oversight and Reform and Homeland Safety Committees, wrote to Mr. Magnus. They requested him to supply paperwork by Feb. 7.
“Regardless of the obvious lack of authority to analyze agent misconduct, Border Patrol seems to have created particular groups of brokers to analyze and accumulate proof following incidents which will create prison or civil legal responsibility, together with allegations of extreme use of power,” they wrote.
Within the separate request to the Authorities Accountability Workplace, a nonpartisan watchdog company, lawmakers mentioned they wished to “higher perceive the roles and tasks” of the essential incident groups, “together with their authorities, actions, coaching and oversight.”
The New York Instances reported this month on the rise in deaths from high-speed car chases by the Border Patrol, highlighting native police studies that had famous the presence of essential incident groups at a number of the scenes. Customs and Border Safety has by no means talked about the groups in information releases about high-speed chases or use-of-force incidents, nor are they talked about in any present insurance policies that the company has made public. In 2013, the groups had been talked about within the company’s use-of-force coverage, however the reference was deleted from subsequent variations after an exterior consulting group raised questions about what the groups did.
Customs and Border Safety has defended the groups, saying that they accumulate proof and help with investigations by the company’s Workplace of Skilled Duty into worker misconduct. However critics have described it as a battle of curiosity for Border Patrol brokers to assist examine their colleagues.
“Public belief and assist will depend on investigative integrity,” Andrea Guerrero, the chief of a group group in San Diego, mentioned on Monday. Final yr, the group known as on Congress to analyze the groups.
Ms. Guerrero has spent the previous yr wanting into essential incident groups after she noticed mentions of them in paperwork about a 2010 case involving the demise of a 42-year-old Mexican man who was hogtied, crushed and shocked with a Taser by Border Patrol brokers after he was caught coming into the nation illegally. Lawmakers have requested the Authorities Accountability Workplace to analyze incidents going again to 2010.
The 2010 episode drew worldwide consideration, and the case is to be heard this yr by the Inter-American Fee on Human Rights courtroom — an obvious first for an individual who died by the hands of U.S. regulation enforcement.
Mr. Thompson mentioned Customs and Border Safety briefed some congressional committees final yr in regards to the groups. “However they didn’t totally tackle all our questions,” he mentioned, including that lawmakers requested the company for extra data, however have but to obtain something.
Customs and Border Safety and its mum or dad company, the Division of Homeland Safety, didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.
Over many years, many political leaders have described the Border Patrol as working with impunity. And whereas Customs and Border Safety’s Workplace of Skilled Duty and a use-of-force oversight board conduct investigations into alleged misconduct, the outcomes are not often made public.
Customs and Border Safety has been reluctant to share data with Congress previously. After the company offered little details about the end result of investigations into worker involvement in a non-public Fb group that contained racist and offensive posts, the Home Oversight and Reform Committee performed its personal inquiry. The existence of the Fb group was publicly revealed in 2019, and the committee issued a report final October that confirmed there was minimal self-discipline for these concerned.