As a coalition grounded in protecting and advancing human rights in the borderlands, the Southern Border Communities Coalition can celebrate the following accomplishments that were the direct result of our work and collaborative efforts.
We have laid crucial groundwork for establishing unprecedented, effective accountability and oversight over border enforcement policies, personnel and resources by engaging in public education and advocacy urging Congress to:
Hold DHS accountable by ensuring that investigations are independent and external. After exposing Border Patrol’s use of unlawful “shadow police units” (aka, Critical Incident Teams) to protect Border Patrol agents who engaged in excessive use of force, including fatal high-speed car chases, we’ve worked with congressional allies to draft a legislative initiative, the Investigative Integrity Act, that if passed will: (1) give the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigative primacy for any federal law enforcement participation in critical incidents, (2) give the DOJ the authority to investigate pattern and practice, (3) strengthen mechanisms to charge federal law enforcement officials for obstruction of justice, and (4) creates new penalties for federal employees making a false claim of investigative authority.
Create a private right of action for an individual to sue federal agents to enforce civil and constitutional rights. As the result of our advocacy, Senator Padilla introduced S. 2103, Accountability for Federal Law Enforcement Act on June 17, 2021.
- Rescind the “powers without warrant” granted to DHS in 8 U.S.C. 1357(a)(3) to ensure protection of 4th Amendment rights. Currently, we are developing and implementing a bipartisan advocacy campaign for this measure.
- End DHS authority to waive federal, tribal, state, and local laws that protect communities, in order to build walls, by eliminating Section 102 of REAL ID Act. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) re-introduced legislation to rescind this waiver authority, Rescinding DHS’ Waiver Authority for Border Wall Act (HR. 4848), on July 29, 2021. Outgoing New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall introduced a companion Senate bill to rescind the waiver authority (S. 254) in the 2019-2020 Congress. We have engaged in a series of targeted meetings with the New Mexico senators and anticipate that Sen. Ben Ray Lujan and Sen. Martin Heinrich will introduce a Senate companion bill to rescind DHS’s waiver authority shortly.
- Hold DHS accountable by ensuring that investigations are independent and external. After exposing Border Patrol’s use of unlawful “shadow police units” (aka, Critical Incident Teams) to protect Border Patrol agents who engaged in excessive use of force, including fatal high-speed car chases, we’ve worked with congressional allies to draft a legislative initiative, the Investigative Integrity Act, that if passed will: (1) give the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigative primacy for any federal law enforcement participation in critical incidents, (2) give the DOJ the authority to investigate pattern and practice, (3) strengthen mechanisms to charge federal law enforcement officials for obstruction of justice, and (4) creates new penalties for federal employees making a false claim of investigative authority.
We made tremendous strides in shifting spending priorities in the border region from unfettered spending on militarization to the FY2021 spending bill that passed out of the House Appropriations Committee, which reflected many of our goals, including reducing funding for CBP, a recission of FY2020 funding for border wall construction and the prohibition of new funding for border wall construction. We are co-plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging Trump’s border wall construction that were vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court and sent back to the Ninth Circuit. Currently, we are in settlement negotiations with the Biden administration.
Both the House and Senate FY2022 DHS appropriations bills do not include any border wall funding, however the administration is keen on instead spending more taxpayer dollars on surveillance technologies, which put at risk the privacy rights of border communities. On the plus side, the recently released draft Senate DHS bill rescinds $1.9 billion in border wall funding from previous fiscal year congressional appropriations, and repurposes a portion for environmental remediation due to the harms caused by border-barrier construction and to facilitate trade and travel.
We are also working with Defund Hate Coalition and other allies to advance positive border-related budgets and appropriations for Fiscal Year 2023, starting with educating the administration about why the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2023 should cut funding for ICE and CBP and instead invest more in creating a humane, orderly and efficient way to process refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced people that respects their dignity and human rights. Regardless of whether or not a new continuing resolution extends Trump-era appropriations (i.e., FY21 funding levels for FY22), we will continue to advocate for cuts to CBP and ICE budget in all funding cycles under this administration.
We provided technical expertise and mobilized congressional support to get the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act, legislation co-sponsored by border senators Harris and Cornyn, passed into law. This law legislation authorizes funding for 911-relay rescue beacons to prevent deaths in remote areas of the border and a new grants program for local government, academic, and non-profit organizations to engage in forensic work to identify the thousands of remains in the border region and reunite them with their loved ones around the world. SBCC educated congressional members on the need to create this bill three years ago and worked with cosponsors to build support for it. The bill was passed with unanimous support in the Senate and House and was signed by the former president in January 2021. It is fundamentally a humanitarian bill and a testament to what is possible even in a divided political climate. We are currently advocating for additional funding through the appropriations process in both chambers: the draft FY22 Senate CJS appropriations bill designates funding to implement the grants program in the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remain Act.
- We continue to advance a New Border Vision (NBV) that promotes a good governance model at the border, rather than the longtime approach of border enforcement. The NBV framing was picked up by the Biden administration and some of the recommendations formed part of the U.S. Citizenship Act introduced in Congress. The NBV also informed recommendations we gave to the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of their Universal Periodic Review of the United States. In addition, we were invited to present the NBV at a gathering of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. To date, five local governments including the City of Berkeley and the City of San Francisco have passed an NBV resolution, calling for national reform to ensure the full protection of civil and human rights in border states.
We continue to maintain a go-to data portal called Border Lens on the SBCC website that provides a wealth of data about southern border communities for use by policy makers, media outlets, advocates, and philanthropists to inform their work as it relates to the border. The portal includes information on demographics, biodiversity, trade and economic benefits, regular crossing data, border wall, checkpoints, unaccountable agents, corruption and abuse by border agents, asylum seekers, expulsions and turnbacks, assaults on migrants, wait times, family separation, coronavirus data and a new section that explains why a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS holders, farmworkers and essential workers matters to border communities.