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Customs and Border Patrol: More Transparency and Accountability Needed

Earlier his week, the New York Times published an article detailing several instances of abuse allegedly perpetrated by Border Patrol agents. A pregnant woman was kicked by an agent, resulting in a miscarriage while a teenager was punched in the face. NPR reported that last year a 16 year-old Mexican boy was killed after being shot at 10 times through a fence by a Border Patrol agent. Complaints were made to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), but unfortunately, there has been little disciplinary action and the agency hasn’t released information about investigations into these incidents. Customs and Border Patrol is a massive government agency. In recent years, Congress has greatly increased its budget. CBP has hired thousands of new employees, making it the largest law enforcement agency in the country with over 50,000 employees. Such an immense and powerful agency needs to make sure they are training their employees properly and thoroughly investigating allegations of abuse. As is clear from recent news reports, this isn’t the case.

Furthermore, there needs to be a clear and unified system for the public to report complaints against the agency. As of now, according to the New York Times, there is none. CBP also needs to release the results of their investigations and notify the public of the actions they are taking to improve their conduct.

There does seem to be bipartisan agreement on this issue. Legislation was recently introduced in the House by Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and Steve Pearce (R-NM) to improve oversight of the CBP. It would create an independent commission to review the agency’s use of force as well as an ombudsman at the Department of Homeland Security to address complaints. The bill would also require more training for agents and create a system to track deaths of migrants along the border.

The CBP's record of abuse and opacity shows that action must be taken to make the agency more transparent and responsible. This legislation is a good first step.