By Bill Parry
Sending a message that it is time to push back against the broad autonomy given to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in their ongoing crackdown on immigrants, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) announced new legislation last Friday that would mandate stricter scrutiny and oversight of ICE agents and CBP officers by establishing a formal record-keeping process of all stops and searches by the two agencies.
The Department of Homeland Security Accountability and Transparency Act would require ICE and CBP officers to report every time they stop an individual and submit details of that interaction to Congress. Under current law, the officers are not required to disclose this information unless there is an arrest of force used by the officer.
“After years of reports of unnecessary force and unlawful stops, it is time that ICE and CBP agents are held accountable,” Crowley said. “In order to better protect our country, as well as the rights of every person, we need data on every encounter and stricter oversight of these agencies who’ve become the key enforcers of President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. ICE and Border Patrol agents are no exception to transparency and oversight.”
The legislation was first introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and was co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
“Keeping our country safe cannot come at a cost to basic human rights. When border patrol agents question bus and train passengers about their immigration status, they aren’t required to collect any information about why they targeted a particular person or what happened during their encounter,” Gillibrand said. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure there are transparency and accountability during these stops. This legislation would help ensure that our agents are serving the public as effectively as possible without violating people’s basic human rights.”
Homeland Security and ICE have increasingly used forceful tactics when stopping and apprehending immigrants in the United States, according to Crowley. In a stark contrast to previous policies, President Trump’s administration has empowered ICE agents to arrest immigrants in hospitals, at courthouses, and in houses of worship. Crowley’s Department of Homeland Security Accountability and Transparency Act would require any ICE or CBP officer or agent to disclose, among other things, the reason for stopping the individual, the individual’s characteristics, if force was used or if an arrest was made, and the badge number of the law enforcement officer present. This data would be reported to Congress and would be accessible to the public.
Crowley’s bill is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York, the National Immigration Forum, the Southern Border Coalition, the Asian American Federation and the Niskanen Center.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr