Additional Reforms Needed to Strengthen Oversight, Accountability and Protect Human Rights
Border Region: Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced new standards governing transport, escort, detention and search-referred to collectively as TEDS. These standards establish agency-wide, minimum standards for U.S. Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations.
The announcement follows litigation and extensive documentation demonstrating human rights abuses in CBP custody, including denial of food, water, medical care, basic sanitation, verbal, physical and sexual abuse and other unnecessarily harsh and punitive conditions.
Additionally, border agents frequently deport men and women without their identification documents, cash or credit cards, and cellphones. This practice leaves people vulnerable to violence, harassment, and extortion by predatory groups or local police and without any means to access basic services or return home.
While the new TEDS standards put forward principles that seek to address some of these areas of concern, they also maintain current practices in other areas or provide significant discretion that will continue to result in civil and human rights abuses. Furthermore, today's announcement does not include any reforms to increase oversight or accountability at CBP, such as independent monitoring or nongovernmental access.
In response, spokespersons for the Southern Border Communities Coalition issued these statements.
Jennifer Johnson, Border Policy Advisor of the Southern Border Communities Coalition stated:
Although the public release of these standards represents a welcomed gesture in transparency with border rights advocates, these standards still fall short of ensuring humane and dignified treatment of migrants and border residents and fail to establish meaningful accountability and oversight mechanisms. Both the U.S. Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations must build upon and strengthen these standards.
Astrid Dominguez, Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Texas, stated:
The TEDS standards show that CBP knows it has a problem with treating people in its custody lawfully and humanely, but these minimum standards don't go far enough and fail to address the current lack of accountability at CBP. Without implementing greater oversight through an independent monitoring system or nongovernmental access, as other DHS agencies have done, these standards will continue to allow officers at our nation's largest police force to ignore constitutional rights and American values.
Blanca Navarrete, director of Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción, A.C. in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and executive coordinator of the Programa de Defensa e Incidencia Binacional, a sister coalition to SBCC along Mexico's northern border, stated:
U.S. agencies continue to deny families the basic human decency of protecting and returning their personal belongings. Since this June, more than 43 percent of individuals deported to Mexico arrived without their belongings. These new policies promise to better inform migrants of how to recuperate their things, but institutionalize current practices that by definition rob them. Returning currency, cell phones or photo identification isn't just the fair and just thing to do, it's a matter of personal safety.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) brings together more than 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region.