Senate Democrats from border states have introduced a bill that would eventually require full use of body-worn cameras by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), two out-of-control immigration agencies in dire need of accountability. While CBP has tested such cameras on its own, ICE has not. “The legislation would also require DHS to report to Congress on these pilot programs, develop policies governing the use of BWC with public consultation, and develop an implementation plan to require full BWC deployment,” their statement reads.
The legislation, introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris, Tom Udall, and Martin Heinrich, has the support of the Border Patrol’s union as well as a leading coalition of groups fighting for accountability from the border agency. “The bill … is an important first step in restoring community trust broken by years of abuses committed by border agents, who are rarely—if ever—held accountable,” the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) said. “This bill represents a tangible and necessary step to bring oversight, transparency, and accountability to agencies with a long history of abuses along the border and across the nation.”
Oversight, transparency, and accountability have long been lacking. According to Treasury payment records and court documents spanning 2005 to 2017, the federal government has paid out more than $9 million to the families of at least 20 people who died at the hands of border agents since 2003. Among the more recent dead is Claudia Patricia Gómez González, an unarmed migrant woman shot and killed by a border agent earlier this year. The agency initially claimed she ambushed the agent with “blunt objects,” but this was a lie. With no one having witnessed the exact moment the agent shot her, a body-worn camera could have provided answers.
The bill is among the recent pieces of legislation introduced by Congressional Democrats to rein in unleashed immigration agencies.
In May, Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state introduced the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, “which would increase oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers and halt funds for construction or expansion of new facilities.” These agencies need accountability, not more beds, more guards, and certainly not more millions in taxpayer dollars.
“CBP and ICE have been unwilling to implement the most basic standards of professionalism, transparency and integrity, despite the fact that they are the nation’s largest police force,” said David Sanchez of the Northern Borders Communities Coalition (NBCC). “They should be the gold standard when it comes to 21st century policing, which is why Congress must move quickly to pass these bills. We thank Senators Harris, Heinrich, and Udall for working to help restore trust between border communities, law enforcement, and the entire nation.”