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Latino Daily News

Monday March 17, 2014

Tougher Oversight of Border Patrol Agents Urged by Some Legislators

A pair of congressmen representing districts on the Mexican border are promoting a bill that would subject Department of Homeland Security agencies, including the Border Patrol, to greater oversight and accountability.

The Border Accountability and Stakeholder Engagement Act will be introduced late this week or early next week by Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke and Republican Steve Pearce of New Mexico.

Its goal is to create mechanisms for monitoring, checking and evaluating the actions of federal agents.

John Meza, spokesman for O’Rourke, told Efe on Monday that the bill seeks to create an independent Commission of Border Supervision and an ombud with sufficient authority to investigate the use of deadly force and the search procedures employed at ports of entry.

“Our offices receive frequent reports from our constituents and those close to them about agents’ excessive use of force and other unjustified conduct,” Meza said.

The spokesman said that at the moment there is no “coherent” process for settling these complaints.

O’Rourke’s office noted the case of a New Mexico woman who on Dec. 12, 2013, was submitted to a “humiliating” search by Border Patrol agents at a port of entry in El Paso, Texas.

Congress has approved all resources destined for the Border Patrol and Customs inspectors, but has never suggested creating an independent commission to supervise the agents’ actions, Jose Manuel Escobedo, assistant director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told Efe.

“The bill is very interesting because usually when members of Congress talk about the border, it’s all about how many more agents to add, how many miles of walls to build, and this bill is just the opposite,” Escobedo said. “Now it’s to see how our forces on the border respect human rights.”

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