Press Releases

Chairwoman Roybal-Allard Statement at DHS Appropriations Hearing on CBP - Border Patrol Oversight

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Washington, July 24, 2019 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) led the subcommittee’s hearing today about U.S. Customs and Border Protection – U.S. Border Patrol oversight.  The witness was Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost.

The chairwoman’s opening statement as prepared is below.

Today, we welcome the chief of the Border Patrol, Carla Provost – and I would note that Chief Provost is the first woman to hold this important position.  Chief, thank you for being here today.

First, I want to acknowledge that the men and women of the Border Patrol have faced a multitude of challenges this year with the high numbers of migrants we have seen coming across our border.  I know they have worked long hours and have been asked to do work they have never imagined would be part of their job.

While I continue to believe the majority of your personnel carry out their mission in a professional manner and treat those in their custody with humanity, I have significant concerns about the reports of mistreatment by some Border Patrol agents.  I am also concerned that the Border Patrol culture may be too tolerant of a minority of bad actors.  Understanding the many challenges facing the Border Patrol, I hope we can work together to effectively address those challenges.  That, in part, is why we are holding this hearing today. 

Considering recent events and disclosures, I look forward to knowing what you are doing to address reports collected by government case managers of the abuse and mistreatment of children in Border Patrol custody, specifically in Yuma, Arizona.  I am also interested in learning what you are doing to improve the conditions in your holding facilities, which the inspector general in El Paso described as horrific.  Specifically, I remain concerned about conditions under which families and children are being held by the Border Patrol.

Last month, Congress allocated additional funding to improve living conditions in the Border Patrol’s temporary holding facilities.  This included providing adequate space, comfort items, and access to medical care.  I look forward to hearing what you are doing with the additional resources. 

Also of great concern and interest is what you are doing in response to the disclosure of disgraceful comments made by what is hopefully a small, but loud and troublesome, subset of your workforce.

We have been disturbed and disappointed by these reports of inappropriate discussions on Facebook, and humiliating treatment and cruelty towards migrants. 

Chief Provost, every member of this subcommittee is committed to improving our security at the border, but we must do it in a way that is consistent with our national values including a commitment to those in need.  Unfortunately, that is not happening throughout your agency.  We need to talk about what appears to be a dangerous subculture at the agency that cannot be tolerated and must be addressed. 

This mission requires leadership that will enforce and emphasize treating migrants humanely and respecting their rights.  I want to work with you to ensure that happens.

On a separate issue, in response to the recent challenges at the border, the administration directed the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols, as well as the cross-training of border agents to perform the duties of USCIS asylum officers.

I have significant concerns about both initiatives and will be interested in hearing your perspective on these assignments which are outside of your scope of work, and are impacting your stated mission and duties to protect our borders.

Finally, it is concerning how this administration has implemented policy after policy that seems singularly focused on reducing the flow of migrants without regard to our country’s asylum laws or the impact they will have on migrant rights, particularly their right to claim asylum.  

This is just one example of how many of the president’s actions are contrary to what we mean when we say our border security policies must be consistent with our laws and our American values.  Together, we must find that balance which, sadly, up to now, has been lacking.

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