CBP TEDS Standards Fall Short of Needed Accountability and Oversight

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The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) welcomes the public release by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of its first agency-wide National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS), a policy meant to provide the minimum requirements for the agency’s interaction with detained migrants, today, October 5, 2015. While we recognize that this is an important step forward in transparency and acknowledgment of vulnerable populations in detention, LAWG expresses disappointment at the failure of TEDS to include satisfactory provisions for the complete accountability and oversight of the agency’s actions in these procedures. As recent statistics demonstrate, there is an urgent need to revise TEDS policies to address previous violations by CBP agents. In August 2015, the U.S. CBP reported the apprehension of 4,632 unaccompanied migrant children, most of them Central American, at the U.S.-Mexico border, representing the highest monthly number of apprehended minors since in mid-2014. Many of these children, along with women and men, have ended up locked up under inhumane conditions in detention centers and holding cells along the border. Moreover, although a federal grand jury recently charged a U.S. CBP agent with second-degree murder on September 24th for the Nogales border shooting of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez in 2012, multiple cases where agents have acted with a questionable use of force still remain under investigation. Three years after the shooting of U.S. citizen Valeria Tachiquín Alvarado in San Diego, no indictments have been made of the responsible agent. Complaints around the failure to return migrants’ belongings upon deportation have largely not been addressed. A June report of the CBP Integrity Advisory Panel, a group co-chaired by New York police commissioner, William J. Bratton, further noted serious shortcomings in Customs and Border Protection’s policies and practices on use of force, integrity and transparency.

These examples clearly demonstrate an agency-wide pattern of mistreatment of migrants from the moment of their apprehension, to their transport and escort to detention facilities, transfer among additional agencies, and subsequent return to Mexico and Central America.

LAWG acknowledges the development of TEDS as a first step in standardizing relevant policies but calls for further action on the part of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to ensure the full accountability and oversight for its implementing agents to follow procedures that protect migrants’ dignity and safety at all times and to minimize possibilities for discretion in the implementation of such standards.

“Adopting TEDS nationally should be the starting point of agency-wide reform in the treatment of all migrants that come in and out of its custody. We will continue to encourage CBP to adopt more stringent policies that ensure that all migrants, especially at-risk populations including children, women, family units, and LGTBI individuals, are not subject to procedures that violate their dignity and human and civil rights,” stated Daniella Burgi-Palomino of LAWG.