CHC MEMBERS CALL FOR BODY CAMERAS FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER AGENTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) signed on to a letter sent by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly calling for the use of body cameras for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to use body cameras, and highlighting concerns regarding the implementation of President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement actions:
“This accountability and transparency measure will ensure that due process rights are protected and that DHS is truly using their limited resources to prioritize counter-terrorism and national security threats,” said CHC Chairwoman Rep. Lujan Grisham. “Moreover, supporting Congressman Espaillat’s body camera legislation is a call for the safety and integrity of agents and the communities they are duty-bound to protect.”
“At this time of heightened tension and confusion, CBP and ICE agents’ use of body cameras would help keep both officers and members of the public safe,” said CHC First Vice Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro. “Secretary Kelly should make it a priority for his agency to increase the use of this technology because of the critical accountability it provides.”
“We appreciated hearing first-hand from General Kelly on President Trump’s immigration directives and how these policies are being implemented across the country,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “Following numerous reports that agents may not be following proper directives and use coercive methods to extract information and fabricated the testimonies from immigrants, we are calling upon DHS to require immigration enforcement personnel wear body cameras while on duty. Both undocumented immigrants and green card holders are terrified under the Trump Administration’s new immigration policies, and having once been formerly undocumented myself, I personally understand this fear and its impact. That is why this legislation is so important and we are urging General Kelly and the leadership of DHS to implement the use of body cameras to ensure that the civil rights of individuals are not violated.”
The letter was also signed by: Reps. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-12), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Darren Soto (FL-09), and Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03).
COPY OF LETTER
Dear Secretary Kelly:
We are glad we finally had the opportunity to meet with you as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on April 4 and with the Democratic Caucus on March 17 to address our concerns regarding the implementation of President Trump’s immigration enforcement actions.
We appreciated hearing your firsthand interpretation of White House and Department of Homeland Security immigration directives and how they are being implemented across the country. Similarly, we welcomed the opportunity to share with you stories and observations impacting our constituents.
As we discussed, there are examples and evidence of instances in which the actions of ICE agents do not seem to align with the directives you described. For example, we understand you have said that your department’s aim is to prioritize the deportation of people who have serious offenses on their criminal records. However, we have documentation of instances in which agents in the field are not following the spirit of this directive, and are instead targeting immigrants with no criminal records.
It is in light of these inconsistencies that we appreciate your commitment to using your authority as Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure accountability within the department. We welcome your offer to review information that we share with you regarding incidences in which agents may not be following proper directives, which could negatively impact immigrant communities.
As CHC Members Adriano Espaillat and Joaquin Castro mentioned in an earlier letter, one way to ensure that both agency personnel and those targeted and detained by agents are held accountable is to provide law enforcement personnel with body cameras. It was good to hear in both the Democratic Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus meetings that you agree that body cameras are a tool that can enhance public safety and accountability for your agents. As you know, New York Congressman Adriano Espaillat, with the support of several CHC Members, introduced the ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability Act and we urge you to support this important legislation.
The reality is that Americans overwhelmingly support requiring officers to wear body cameras. Of the 68 “major city” departments in the U.S., 43 now have body-worn camera programs with policies in place. Additionally, a recent study found that law enforcement officers’ use of body-worn cameras results in 93% fewer complaints from the public and increased accountability on both sides, thereby helping to quell potentially volatile encounters. The same standards should apply to ICE and CBP agents and officers.
We would appreciate responses to the following questions regarding your views on body cameras and would be happy to work with you to implement this accountability tool:
What steps, if any, are you taking to implement the use of body cameras?
Given your current budget of $40.96 billion in net discretionary authority, will you commit to dedicating some of this funding to a body camera program?
As this is an issue of extreme importance and urgency, we look forward to your swift response.
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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.