A damning report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan earlier this year revealed widespread racial profiling of Latino residents in the state by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, including the harassment of a U.S. citizen and his passengers due to their accents by both local law enforcement and immigration agents.
In response to the report, the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties called for answers from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, with a set deadline of Sept. 1. Nearly a month past that date, committee member Rashida Tlaib said there have been no answers. “Right now, the fact is DHS regrettably hasn’t turned any documents over,” she told ClickOnDetroit.
The ACLU of Michigan’s report had found that “[a]lthough people of Latin American origin comprise just 16.8% of the state’s foreign-born population, 85% of noncitizens apprehended by Border Patrol were from Latin America.” And an overwhelming number of people being stopped by border agents have status. More than 33% are U.S. citizens, and an additional 13% have some sort of lawful status.
“Instead of following its mandate to patrol the Canadian border, Border Patrol is arresting people who, overwhelmingly, are established, long-term residents of Michigan,” the report continued.
The ACLU of Michigan’s report further noted how local and state law enforcement “play a key role in helping Border Patrol target people of color: Nearly half of Border Patrol apprehensions (48.6%) began with a state or local law enforcement agency initiating a traffic stop.” In Arnulfo Gomez’s case, he watched in horror as border agents harassed his party after they were pulled over by Michigan State Police, supposedly due to a loud exhaust pipe. He was fearful that his two U.S. citizen children would have their family torn apart. Ultimately, they were allowed to leave the scene.
“There was no reason for him to pull us over,” Gomez said in the report. “As soon as he saw we are brown, he was after us. Then they called Border Patrol right away.” Following the report’s release, the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties wrote to the Biden administration to request a briefing, saying they were “deeply troubled by what appear to be discriminatory abuses of authority and misuse of taxpayer funds.”
“Seventy percent of illegal crossings on the United States’ northern border are committed by individuals of Canadian or European origin, but less than 4% of CBP’s overall detentions involved white individuals,” legislators wrote. “Taken together, these findings suggest that CBP’s operations in Michigan are focused less on its lawful enforcement priorities than on harassing longtime residents of Michigan in a way that appears to systematically and disproportionately target those of Latin American origin.”
But the Sept. 1 deadline set out by legislators has come and gone, and there’s been no response from the administration. “The Department of Homeland Security did not provide a comment about missing the deadline, but did previously state that it is CBP policy to prohibit the consideration of race or ethnicity in investigations and screenings, ‘in all but the most exceptional circumstances,’” ClickOnDetroit continued.
There are a lot of things immigration agents are prohibited from doing but do anyway because they’re never held accountable. That has stretched across administrations. “There is a chronic problem of abuse of power and those that feel like they’re above the law,” Tlaib said in the report. What has also stretched across administrations is departments simply ignoring requests for answers from Congress, which funds those departments to the tune of billions annually. Why would departments be shaking in their boots at all when Congress continues to fund them without question?