Lawmakers seek inquiry on Border Patrol activities
Eleven members of Congress are asking for an investigation into activities of the U.S. Border Patrol along the U.S.-Canada border.
Eleven members of Congress sent letters urging a nonpartisan government watchdog to audit the U.S. Border Patrol's activities on the northern border, immigrant advocates said Tuesday.
The Democratic lawmakers want the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate whether Border Patrol agents are violating civil rights, undermining immigrant communities and damaging public safety.
"Reports suggest that Border Patrol agents may be targeting individuals on the basis of race or religion for extra scrutiny during border crossings and wrongfully stopping, interrogating, and arresting legal U.S. residents who are many miles from the border," the July 31 letter states. "... Agents are also conducting operations outside places frequented by immigrant children and their families."
The letter is the latest move in a long tussle between immigrant-rights groups and the agency, which has expanded the number of agents along the border from 1,100 in 2007 to more than 2,200 now.
Expanded security at the U.S.-Canada border, which is almost twice as long as the U.S.-Mexico border, was implemented after 9/11.
"Customs and Border protection are incapable of policing themselves. For years, we've gone through the internal process, filing complaints with Homeland Security ... but it never has led to accountability, never led to reform or justice for our community," said Ryan Bates, of the Northern Border Coalition.
An email seeking comment from the Border Patrol was not immediately returned. The agency has previously denied targeting people based on race.
A Government Accountability Office team plans to meet with congressional staff when lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., next month, said spokesman Chuck Young.
The letter asks the GAO to develop comprehensive data on arrests within 100 miles of the northern border to account for race and ethnicity of people apprehended. It asks for a watchdog to determine whether there are "statistically significant racial or ethnic disparities in the rate of apprehension."
Signing the letter are representatives Charles Rangel, Yvette Clarke and Maurice D. Hinchey, of New York; Jim McDermott and Adam Smith, of Washington state; Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke, of Michigan; Judy Chu and Pete Stark from California and Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, of Georgia.
Rep. John Conyers, of Michigan, sent his own letter, advocates said.