UCBP has issued a memorandum ending an oversight team of Border Patrol officers charged with investigating incidents that involved border enforcers. Instead investigations will be transferred to the Office of Professional Responsibility. This is a separate department, which, although still part of CBP, has been specifically assigned with oversight of agency agencies. Similar offices can be found in other agencies such as the Department of Justice.
After advocates called to terminate the Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams, (BPCIT), program that consists of Border Patrol agents charged in investigating allegations of misconduct or incidents that lead to injury or death. Democratic lawmakers urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into BPCIT. In January, the House Committee of Oversight and Reform launched a probe.
Democrats on the Hill and immigrant advocates cheered the move on Friday, saying incidents, including Border Patrol agent’s use of force that have caused the deaths of immigrants in their custody, should not be investigated by its own personnel.
“These teams have been investigating their own agents without official jurisdiction for decades and there have been numerous disturbing reports of BPCITs interfering with law enforcement investigations to shield CBP officers and agents,” Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat from California, said in a statement. “Public safety depends on public trust and accountability. I will continue to monitor the disbanding of BPCITs to ensure that proper records are kept in order to get a full accounting of their actions.”
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The formation of BPCITs at the U.S. Mexico border began in 1987. It was first formed in San Diego. But their official names could change depending upon the border sector. This is according to the Southern Border Communities Coalition. SBCC, a network of Texas organizations from California, Arizona and New Mexico that accuses BPCITs in covering up the crimes allegedly committed Border Patrol agents. SBCC advocates for an investigation of the BPCITs and their end. They have sent letters to Congress and partnered with family members of immigrant victims who were killed allegedly through Border Patrol agents using force.
CBP issued a memo Friday stating that OPR will be leading investigations starting October 1. “OPR will assume full responsibility for the critical incident response function utilizing its own assigned personnel,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus wrote in the memo. “To ensure our Agency achieves the highest levels of accountability, OPR will be the CBP entity responsible for responding to critical incidents and ensuring all reviews and investigations are conducted by personnel with appropriate expertise, training, and oversight.”
CBP did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.
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Advocates call for more transparency in the process of transition. “This is an implicit acknowledgement that these units have no place in investigations,” Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, an immigrant advocacy organization, said in a statement. “To move forward, we need an honest accounting of what has happened so that it never happens again.”
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