May 11, 2018

Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Increase Transparency And Accountability For Border Patrol And Ice Agents

Under Current Law, Border Patrol Agents Do Not Have to Keep Records of Every Stop They Conduct, Despite Routinely Questioning Train and Bus Passengers About Their Immigration Status

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced new legislation, the Department of Homeland Security Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act, S.2832, which would require accountability and transparency within Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by establishing a formal record-keeping process of all stops and searches. Currently, there is no required record-keeping process for officers making a patrol stop or inspection, except in cases of arrest or use of force by an officer. Border patrol agents have broad authority to question anyone within 100 miles of a U.S. land or coastal border about their immigration status, which covers most of the population of the United States. Border patrol agents routinely question passengers on Amtrak and passenger buses about their immigration status without having to keep a formal record of the majority of these stops. This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

“Keeping our country safe cannot come at a cost to basic human rights. When border patrol agents stop and question people in New York and in many places across the country, they aren’t keeping data about why they targeted a particular person or what happened during their encounter,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure our border patrol agencies are transparent and accountable, just like every law enforcement agency in our country should be. I am proud to introduce the Department of Homeland Security Accountability and Transparency Act, which would require that our border patrol agencies start collecting detailed records about every stop they make, so we can ensure that our agents are serving the public as effectively as possible and that no one’s rights are being violated.”

“Border patrol agents have a duty to protect our borders without trampling on our constitutional rights,” said Senator Warren. “Without critical data to track stops and searches, Congress and the public cannot fully monitor and hold agents accountable when they cross the line. I’m glad to join Senator Gillibrand in improving the integrity of immigration enforcement along our borders.”

“People living in New Mexico’s border communities are very familiar with immigration stops and checkpoints and they need to know that their rights will be respected and upheld by federal law enforcement,” Senator Udall said. “This legislation provides a level of basic accountability that will help to strengthen trust in the agencies tasked with protecting our borders and enforcing immigration laws. Without comprehensive and accurate record keeping, Congress cannot conduct the oversight necessary to guarantee the rights of New Mexicans along the border.”

“All public agencies must be transparent and accountable to the American public,” said Senator Merkley. “As troubling stories have emerged in recent months of roving immigration checks and potential racial profiling, it’s time for ICE and CBP to provide data and accountability on how and why they are using these enforcement techniques.”

“Immigration enforcement excesses captured on video - like Border Patrol bus and train boardings and the brutal assault on Jessica Cooke - cast light on how behind DHS is compared to other law enforcement agencies in adopting fundamental oversight mechanisms like data collection.  The DATA Act is a welcome and important measure to increase DHS transparency and improve accountability for vast enforcement resources.  The DATA Act's statistical reports are urgently needed to inform whether ICE and CBP agents adhere to legal constraints on their authority, including prohibitions of racial profiling, invasive checkpoints, and excessive force.  It will help protect individual rights and promote nondiscriminatory policing,” said Chris Rickerd, Policy Counsel, National Policy Advocacy Department at American Civil Liberties Union

“ICE and border patrol’s frequent dragnets at bus stops and train stations have chilled the free movement of our immigrant communities, need to be held to the same standard as other public law enforcement agencies, and cannot act as rogue agents under a shroud of secrecy. The DATA Act will pull ICE and CBP activity out from hiding and better due process for all,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“Intrusive?, Border Patrol checkpoints and roving patrols far from the actual border have infringed on the quality of life of border residents and subjected them to abuse and racial profiling,” said Andrea Guerrero, co-chair, Southern Border Communities Coalition. “Comprehensive data collection is an important tool to bring greater accountability and transparency to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ?restore trust with border communities.”

“During a time when immigrant communities are under attack, Senator Gillibrand’s DATA Act legislation will enforce necessary accountability and transparency measures for ICE and Border Patrol agents, which have had free reign to conduct stops and searches without having to report them,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of Asian American Federation. “The Asian American Federation applauds the Senator’s bold decision to demand accountability from those entrusted to maintain our civil liberties. With Asian immigrants and all other immigrant communities living in fear, the DATA Act takes a step in the right direction to protect their rights and provide assurances that some of our leaders are willing to stand against abuses of power.”

“The Trump administration’s attacks on immigrant communities have laid bare a simple truth: ICE and CBP are completely out of control,” said Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “As members of our community continue to face unlawful stops and racial profiling, this legislation to increase transparency is a critical piece of capturing the scale of the problem and taking action to rein in the abuses.”

“The provisions in the DATA Act are a great first step towards establishing transparency and accountability, and safeguarding the rights of everyone involved in immigration encounters,” said Niskanen Center President Jerry Taylor. “Formal record-keeping is the only way to keep our federal immigration enforcements officials safe, and ensure that we comply with the rule of law.”

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security Accountability and Transparency Act would do the following:  

  • Require any officer or agent of CBP or ICE, and any other state or local law enforcement official enforcing U.S. immigration laws, to collect data when a patrol stop, secondary inspection, or search occurs at a non-international port of entry checkpoint.
  • Require the data collected during these stops to consist of a number of key points, including identifying characteristics of the individual; the date, time, location, and duration of the stop; the basis for the stop; whether or not a search was conducted or force was used; if an arrest was made; and the badge number of any law enforcement officer present.
  • Require CBP to collect data on the number of permanent and temporary checkpoints utilized by officers of CBP, including the location of and description of other law enforcement agencies or resources utilized at each checkpoint.
  • Require DHS to compile and submit in a report all data collected by law enforcement officials to Congress. This report must also be made available to the public.

This legislation is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Immigration Coalition, the National Immigration Forum, the Southern Border Coalition, the Asian American Federation, Make the Road New York, and the Niskanen Center.