U.S. Reps. Adam Smith and Jim McDermott joined eight other members of Congress in signing a letter calling for an independent investigation into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s authority to stop people and vehicles within 100 miles of the northern border.
The letter instructs the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), to look into practices by Border Patrol agents, which they say target individuals on the basis of race or religion for extra scrutiny during border crossings and wrongful stops. It also claims that agents stop, interrogate and arrest legal U.S. residents many miles from the border.
The Border Patrol’s growing presence along the northern border has been a source of ongoing complaints by immigrant advocates, particularly on behalf of people who are in this country unlawfully.
The lawmakers say the the agents also conduct operations outside places frequented by children and families, including churches, schools and human services facilities.
“We are concerned that the CBP’s activities may potentially undermine immigrant communities’ trust in law enforcement, violate people’s civil rights and adversely impact public safety,” the letter says. “We are also concerned that the diversion of resources away from the border comes at the expense of U.S. national security.”
The lawmakers want the GAO to develope statistics on apprehensions at or within 100 miles of the border, to include information on race, ethnicity, length of time in the U.S. and the results of the apprehension and determine if there are statistically significant racial or ethnic disparities in the rate of apprehensions by CBP.