ACLU Calls for True Oversight of DHS Failures

March 5, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today responded to the House Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff with a question of its own: After five years of mistakes, why is an agency that consistently overlooks civil liberties and privacy concerns be still allowed to violate the law?

“DHS has been a five-year pageant of constitutional violations and bad ideas,” said ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel Michael W. Macleod-Ball. “The ACLU is not among those celebrating the Department’s fifth anniversary – instead the American people are sorting through the wreckage of the department’s many failures. DHS is not an agency of security. ICE raids have made it an agency of terror, SSA no-match letters have made it an agency of economic disaster, Real ID has made it an agency that invades our privacy and FEMA’s response – or lack thereof – to Hurricane Katrina has made it an agency of abject failure. DHS is leaving a color-coded history of chaos in its wake.”

The ACLU opposes a number of other DHS programs and policies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s unconstitutional immigration detentions and raids, the bloated terrorist watch list, travel bans for HIV-positive international visitors to the United States, intrusive passenger screening at airports and plans for a privacy-invasive “virtual fence” at the border, among others. The response of FEMA, another DHS agency, to Katrina, particularly the racial injustice and human rights violations that have taken place since the storm, is another example of the department’s many problems.

“Five years after the creation of DHS, federal immigration policies and programs are more dysfunctional than ever before,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin. “The three immigration-related sections – Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services – have an abysmal record of inter-agency communication and coordination of immigration policies. ICE has pursued an unprecedented campaign of raids characterized by pre-dawn home invasions with armed agents banging on doors, arresting parents in front of their children and tearing families asunder. ICE’s tactics have been so reckless that they have resulted in the detention and deportation of U.S. citizens. Left in the wake of ICE’s raids are disrupted worksite operations, abandoned U.S. children left with no one to care for them, and communities living in terror. Congress must rein in ICE’s cowboy conduct by ensuring that immigration enforcement complies with U.S. immigration laws and due process.”

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