Members of Congress React to PBS Story on Border Abuses

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–July 26, 2012.  In response to a PBS investigation that documented allegations of widespread abuse by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel, Members of Congress expressed grave concerns about the agency’s commitment to preventing the mistreatment of detained immigrants.  The documentary, which mirrors the findings of multiple independent inquiries by non-governmental organizations, found evidence of physical abuse, deprivation of food and water, sexual assault and even torture by members of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency.

“The PBS report paints an appalling picture of cruelty and corruption,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).  “While the evidence mounts that CBP personnel are responsible for a deeply troubling pattern of abuses, the agency’s leadership has yet to take any meaningful action to improve the oversight of its officers and agents in the field.  The time has come for CBP to finally take these egregious allegations seriously.”  

“The latest PBS reporting shows that the problems with violence at the CBP are widespread and systemic,” said Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY). “The need for a top-to-bottom review of CBP practices and for increased training of their officers couldn’t be more clear. We must ensure the safety and well-being of immigrants and citizens near the border and in custody. Most of those who are detained have done little more than cross a border—they shouldn’t be treated like violent criminals or worse.”

“In light of the findings in PBS’s report, it is imperative that there is a proper investigation to get at the root of these allegations,” said Congressman Charles A. Gonzalez (D-TX), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Detainees under our government’s custody require an environment free of abuse, corruption and violence. Anything less than that, is a violation of our fundamental values as a nation.”

“Decades of partisanship, gridlock and acrimony have prevented the United States from addressing border, immigration, and security issues in a sensible way,” said Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  “The result of our tough ‘law and order’ approach to border security is clearly less law and less order, with an unmanageable agency, renegade agents, unconscionable abuse, and more acrimony.  We must do better in a 21st century world where contraband and threats are on the move at the same time that goods, families, tourists, and workers are also on the move and are driving our economy and prosperity.”

“Congress should put politics aside and work together now to reform our broken immigration system,” said Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO).  “One of the first steps is ensuring that federal agencies responsibly enforce the law. The allegations of abuse and corruption cast serious doubt on CBP’s ability to do so. Congress should investigate these allegations and the agencies involved should undertake a wholesale rethinking of how they conduct their business.”

“The credible, ongoing allegations of abuse and corruption by certain Customs and Border Patrol agents raised by PBS and others demand immediate attention,” said Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). “Agency leaders should start an immediate zero-tolerance policy and address credible reports of wrongdoing as quickly as possible. Many men and women who protect our nation’s borders truly define courage and honor. Those who violate the trust given to them by the American people should be held accountable for their actions not only to give their victims justice and closure, but to preserve the respect their agencies and their more honorable colleagues have earned.”

Statistics obtained by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard from the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (DHS OIG) show that at least 26 CBP employees have been arrested and 14 convicted of crimes in the past year alone. 

In May, 16 members of Congress called for justice in the tragic beating death of an undocumented immigrant named Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas in CBP custody and reiterated the need for tougher oversight of Border Patrol personnel.  A grand jury has subsequently been convened to investigate the Hernandez-Rojas case.