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Border Security and

Border Security and Immigration Homeland Security unions testify in support of more staff but not a border “wall” By Joshua Breisblatt As part of the President’s immigration executive order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was directed to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. With record numbers of ICE officers and Border Patrol agents already in place, it is unclear how or why this additional hiring is needed. This week, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing to discuss these additions with DHS union representatives. First, Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council which endorsed the President, parted ways with him when he said, “We do not need a wall along the entire 2,000 miles of border.” In an interview after the 2016 election he went on to say, “If I were to quantify an actual number, I would say that we need about 30 percent. Thirty percent of our border has to have an Chris Crane, head of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council actual fence [or] wall.” However according to the most recent information from DHS, there is already 650 miles of fencing which makes up more than 30 percent of the 2,000 mile border. With respect to staffing, Judd discussed how additions are needed but that the agency faces hiring and funding challenges. Border Patrol is required to have 21,370 agents however they currently are at 19,627, over 1,700 agents below the required levels. Border Patrol has had significant issues with hiring, low morale and high attrition rates, making it hard to increase staff quickly even 24 if additional funds from Congress materialize. Yet Judd suggested in the hearing that pay needs to be increased and the current polygraph requirement need to not be so stringent because two-thirds of applicants fail the test. However, after Border Patrol staffing doubled in the early 2000s, which has led to it being considered “America’s most out-ofcontrol law enforcement agency,” Congress passed the “Anti-Border Corruption Act” in 2010 mandating polygraph exams for border patrol agents. Former head of CBP Internal affairs, James Tomsheck has noted that changing the polygraph requirement will create new corruption issues. Antony Reardon, the President of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents over 25,000 Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at the nation’s air, land and seaports of entry also testified. He stated that even though the Administration has not asked for it, CBP officers at ports of entry have 1,400 open positions and need 2,100 More on page 28

America’s treatment of asylum seekers reviewed by regional human rights body By Karolina Walters The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) heard testimony today about policies that prevent access to the U.S. asylum process for those fleeing grave danger in their home countries. U.S. law guarantees the right to seek asylum to all who flee persecution and arrive at our border looking for protection. And yet, the testimony heard in Washington, D.C. today demonstrated that U.S. officials regularly deny individuals this right. Notably, no one from the U.S. government attended to refute the claims. The hearing opened with testimony highlighting the barriers put in place during asylum seekers’ initial encounters with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry. The practice of turning away asylum seekers has become all too common and was recently brought to the attention of the U.S. government in a complaint. Despite the evidence presented and media coverage, this practice seems to be on the rise. According to one asylum seeker recently turned away by CBP, whose declaration was read at the hearing: “I told [the CBP official] that I wasn’t from here, that I was from Honduras, and that I wanted asylum. He told me that there was no longer asylum for Hondurans. . . . I pled with him for help and told him that I couldn’t return to Honduras. I started to explain why I couldn’t return and what I was fleeing from but he interrupted me and said that everyone comes with the same story, that he couldn’t help me . . .” In addition, Nicole Ramos of Al Otro Lado described her experiences witnessing CBP officers attempting to turn away and deny access to the asylum process to sixty-eight 25 asylum seekers she escorted to the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico, over a fifteenmonth period. Daniella Burgi- Palomino of the Latin American Working Group testified about the extreme violence and impunity in Mexico’s northern border region, which awaits asylum seekers turned away at ports of entry, subjecting them to further danger. The hearing also covered the horrible conditions and deplorable treatment of asylum seekers in CBP detention facilities, and the negative effects of detaining asylum seekers while their claims are pending. Joanna Williams of the Kino Border Initiative described her organization’s work with detained asylum seekers in Arizona and noted that CBP officials “willfully ignore and discourage” asylum applications. Theodora Simon of the Hope Border Institute explained that the systematic, prolonged detention of asylum seekers ultimately leads some to withdraw their applications. At the end of the hearing, Com- More on page 29

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