Revised CBP Standards Promise Reform but Fall Short of Accountability

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
October 5, 2015 3:00 pm

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SOUTHERN BORDER REGION — Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released revised “standards governing transport, escort, search and detention”—commonly known as TEDS. These standards create minimum requirements for U.S. Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations, the two components of CBP, both of which may choose to supplement these standards with their own guidance.

While the new standards provide some affirmative reforms, other unconstitutional practices continue to be maintained.

“CBP’s public release of revised standards is a welcome nod towards transparency and an encouraging sign that the agency has finally acknowledged border communities’ concerns,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights. “At the same time, these standards do not guarantee fair and lawful treatment for those in CBP custody and come with no structure for oversight or accountability.”

Several constructive reforms in the new TEDS standards include limiting the use of shackles as a “punitive” measure while in CBP custody, and adopting principles required by the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.

“These standards make clear that CBP is beginning to recognize the failings of its detention operations,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel with the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “We commend the agency’s initial effort, including its attention to children, LGBTQ persons and individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, the standards fall short of constitutional adequacy and fail to address a federal judge’s recent concern that ‘widespread and deplorable’ detention conditions exist because CBP policies aren’t implemented. CBP needs to designate full-time detention-oversight personnel, upgrade the policies announced today, and establish a robust, independent inspection regime for all holding cells.”

The TEDS standards continue to give CBP officials wide latitude to override the new requirements in deciding what is timely or operationally feasible. They maintain the status quo that virtually robs migrants of personal belongings. They also maintain or exacerbate a number of constitutionally suspect policies that have already resulted in the systemic abuse and mistreatment of countless men, women, and children in Border Patrol custody.

“Standards are worth little if they are not enforced,” said Terri Burke, Executive Director of the ACLU of Texas. “These standards fail to address CBP’s oversight and accountability deficits and, unlike other DHS agencies, omit independent monitoring and nongovernmental access. Without this, our nation’s largest police force will continue to operate under a veil of secrecy that enables Border Patrol agents to ignore constitutional rights and American values.”

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