Harlem’s Espaillat And Others Demand IG Investigation Into ICE/CBP Policies And Actions

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Today, Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), José E. Serrano (D-NY), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) called for an Department of Homeland Security Inspector General investigation into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies.

The investigation will apply in regard to repeated violations of those agencies’ sensitive locations policies, and a lack of oversight and safeguards to prevent abuse. The Members believe that only an independent investigation can bring about needed change.

“We believe that there is a significant lack of oversight and accountability within these agencies in carrying out enforcement actions at sensitive locations,” wrote the Members. “Without significant changes, enforcement actions at sensitive locations will continue to undermine the health and safety of immigrants and their families- regardless of their underlying immigration status.”

In October, 84 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for further information about repeated violations of the sensitive locations policies by ICE and CBP, and asking for further information about alleged abuses of these policies and the mechanisms currently in place to ensure accountability. The Department replied just prior to Christmas (see attached document), and revealed significant gaps in oversight of these guidelines. Neither ICE nor CBP keep statistics on their enforcement actions at sensitive locations, and there is not a clear system for complaints and discipline of employees who violate these memoranda. Additionally, CBP agents, who have been involved in several controversial incidents involving sensitive locations, do not receive any training on their agency’s sensitive locations policy.

The full text of the letter is below:

January 18, 2018

The Honorable John Kelly
Acting Inspector General
Office of Inspector General/MAIL STOP 0305
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, DC 20528-0305

Dear Acting Inspector General Kelly,

We write to ask you to conduct an investigation into both the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and U.S. Border Protection (CBP) policies, training, and actions at or near sensitive locations. We believe that there is a significant lack of oversight and accountability within these agencies in carrying out enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations- and that your office has an important role to play in pushing for needed reforms.

Along with 79 of our colleagues, last October we wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security regarding several problems regarding ICE and CBP efforts at or near sensitive locations. We asked several questions regarding training, oversight, information collection, and accountability. We have attached that response to this letter and the questions answered.

Unfortunately, those responses reveal a system that is wholly inadequate to the significant safety, health, and civil liberties concerns raised by recent immigration enforcement activities at or near locations like hospitals, schools, and churches. For instance, the responses to our letter reveal that CBP conducts no training of its employees with regard to its sensitive locations policies. Additionally, we found out that ICE and CBP do not have a clear mechanism for addressing complaints with regard to enforcement actions generally or at sensitive locations in particular. ICE and CBP also apparently do not maintain information on the number of enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations and other related matters.

Without significant changes, enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations will continue to undermine the health and safety of immigrants and their families- regardless of their underlying immigration status. As such, we ask that you examine the effectiveness, identify shortcomings, and recommend changes to the current systems for:

  • Requesting and approving ICE and CBP enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations
  • Training for CBP and ICE employees regarding sensitive locations policies and procedures
  • DHS’s record-keeping with regard to enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations
    Current complaint mechanisms at ICE and CBP, including the number of complaints made against the agencies since January 20, 2017
  • Disciplinary procedures with regard to agent actions at or near sensitive locations, including the number of complaints since that date that have been acted upon by management at ICE and CBP, and the number and types of disciplinary actions taken

In addition, we ask that you conduct investigations into several individual enforcement actions that appear to have violated sensitive locations policies. First, we ask that you investigate the actions taken in May 2017 against Irma Francisca Quiñones Alamillo and Oscar Enrique Sánchez Islas, and identify whether CBP sensitive locations policies were violated and whether any disciplinary actions were taken. As you know, they were subject to an immigration enforcement action while they were at the hospital with their infant son (a United States citizen), who was in need of emergency surgery. That surgery was delayed as they were taken from the hospital and processed.

We also ask that you investigate the circumstances surrounding the detention of Rosa Maria Hernandez, a ten-year-old girl with cerebral palsy whose medical transport vehicle was stopped and delayed at a CBP interior checkpoint on its way to the hospital so Rosa could have necessary surgery. CBP agents remained in her vicinity during and after surgery, despite reports that hospital officials objected, and subsequently took her into custody for transfer to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and her first separation ever from her family. While we understand that Border Patrol has issued a short memo addressing general procedures regarding ambulances at checkpoints, this guidance also needs scrutiny because it does not resolve the many problems revealed by Rosa Maria’s case, including CBP’s lack of consideration of medical expertise to guide and restrain enforcement.

Significant questions and concerns remain regarding ICE and CBP’s commitment to their own guidelines, and we hope you will examine them in the near future. We look forward to discussing these issues with you further.

Sincerely,

To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

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