Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Congressman Serrano Leads Call for Thorough Investigation of Muslim Ban Executive Order Implementation

Feb 9, 2017
Press Release
Letter to DHS Also Calls for Accountability to Congress

Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano led a group of 38 Democratic members in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (IG) and the Office for Civil Right and Civil Liberties urging them to thoroughly investigate the implementation of President Trump’s Muslim ban executive order at ports of entry prior to judicial stays.   

“I am appalled by numerous reports of abusive behavior and coercive practices reportedly used by Customs and Border Patrol agents in implementing the President’s unconstitutional Muslim Ban.   Their actions may have violated internal protocol, federal civil rights laws, and individuals’ constitutional rights.  With multiple layers of oversight over the Department of Homeland Security, it is important that we get a thorough investigation on how DHS officials conducted themselves as they implemented the order and whether they were following orders from above if in fact the type of reported abuses were committed. It is also important that Members of Congress be provided with unredacted information in order to prevent these types of violations from taking place in the future. DHS officials have a duty to implement our nation’s immigration laws but they also have a duty to respect peoples’ fundamental rights while doing so,” said Congressman Serrano.
The effort comes in response to reports indicating that some individuals stopped by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) were coerced into signing forms relinquishing their legal permanent resident status and others were pressured into rescinding their applications for admission into our country under a visa.  In at least one airport, CBP officers denied access to legal counsel to several individuals despite a federal court order requiring such access according to reports.  Numerous lawsuits have been filed in response to these concerns.

The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has not announced any investigation into these actions to date.  While the DHS IG announced an investigation into this matter, the scope is unclear.  The letter asks both agencies to thoroughly investigate and answer numerous questions regarding these reported abuses, and for both offices to provide Congress with updates, briefings, and full unredacted reports when they conclude their investigations.

In the letter, the members of Congress wrote:

“These stories are seriously disturbing.  If accurate, they undermine important provisions of our Constitution and the rule of law in the United States.  While courts will soon rule on the constitutionality of this Executive Order on its face, there also remain serious questions regarding the violation of individuals’ rights- including the rights of legal permanent residents- and CBP’s responsibilities in these circumstances.  There are also important questions to be answered regarding whether senior officials at DHS or elsewhere provided guidance requiring CBP agents to engage in such conduct.  We believe if there were violations of law, procedure, or policy by CBP agents or their superiors, then those individuals should be held accountable.  Although the DHS Inspector General has initiated an investigation, we believe that the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties should do the same, and that both investigations address the following questions:

  1. Did CBP officers attempt to coerce LPRs into signing I-407 forms relinquishing their status as legal permanent residents?  If so, where and when?
  2. Did CBP officers attempt to coerce visa holders into signing I-275 forms to rescind their applications for admission to the United States?  If so, how many instances of this occurred, and where did they occur?
  3. Were there instances at Dulles International Airport in which CBP officers refused to follow a federal court order requiring access to counsel for individuals being detained?  Were there similar instances at other airports or ports of entry?  If so, in how many instances did this occur, and where did it occur?
  4. Did these actions violate CBP internal rules, regulations, guidance, or operations manuals?  Did these actions violate any statutes protecting civil rights and liberties?  Did they implicate any constitutional rights?
  5. Why did these abuses occur?  Did senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House provide guidance or instruction requiring such conduct?
  6. Has the Department of Homeland Security taken disciplinary action against any officers or senior officials involved in these efforts?  Do you recommend that such action be taken?”

The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is tasked with ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security follow all constitutional, statutory, and regulatory requirements with regard to civil rights and civil liberties, and with investigating and resolving civil rights and civil liberties complaints.  The Office of the Inspector General investigates waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse at the Department of Homeland Security.

The letter was signed by Reps. José E. Serrano, Elijah E. Cummings, Nydia M. Velázquez, Raúl M. Grijalva, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Jerrold Nadler, Darren Soto, Jamie Raskin, Ruben Gallego, Keith Ellison, Alcee L. Hastings, William R. Keating, Jan Schakowsky, Henry C. ‘Hank’ Johnson, Jr., Hakeem Jeffries, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted W. Lieu, Grace Meng, Yvette D. Clarke, Juan Vargas, Grace F. Napolitano, Katherine Clark, Nita M. Lowey, Steve Cohen, Tony Cárdenas, Carolyn B. Maloney, Jared Huffman, Luis V. Gutiérrez, David E. Price, Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., John Yarmuth, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alan Lowenthal, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Mark Pocan, Niki Tsongas, and Stacey Plaskett.

 

 

February 8, 2017

 

Mr. John Roth Inspector General Mail Stop 0305 Department of Homeland Security 245 Murray Lane SW Washington, DC 20528-0305

 

Ms. Veronica Venture

Acting Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Department of Homeland Security
Building 410, Mail Stop #0190
Washington, D.C. 20528

 

Dear Inspector General Roth and Acting Officer Venture,

We write to urge you to conduct an immediate investigation into potential abuse of civil rights and constitutional rights of individuals detained by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents under the implementation of the Executive Order issued on January 27, 2017, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”  We are extremely concerned by reports of coercive actions taken by CBP officers, and that individuals were denied access to legal counsel, sometimes in spite of court orders requiring such access.

As this Executive Order has been implemented in a chaotic and uneven manner, a number of disturbing reports have emerged.  There have been numerous news accounts indicating that CBP officers attempted to coerce several Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) into signing an I-407 form, which relinquishes their LPR status.  Additionally, there are still other stories in the media that valid visa holders were detained and encouraged to sign an I-275 form, which rescinds their application for admission into the United States. There are also numerous reports indicating that CBP officers at Dulles International Airport refused to allow lawyers access to their detained clients, despite a court-issued Temporary Restraining Order requiring such access.  

These stories are seriously disturbing.  If accurate, they undermine important provisions of our Constitution and the rule of law in the United States.  While courts will soon rule on the constitutionality of this Executive Order on its face, there also remain serious questions regarding the violation of individuals’ rights- including the rights of legal permanent residents- and CBP’s responsibilities in these circumstances.  There are also important questions to be answered regarding whether senior officials at DHS or elsewhere provided guidance requiring CBP agents to engage in such conduct.  We believe if there were violations of law, procedure, or policy by CBP agents or their superiors, then those individuals should be held accountable.  Although the DHS Inspector General has initiated an investigation, we believe that the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties should do the same, and that both investigations address the following questions:

  1. Did CBP officers attempt to coerce LPRs into signing I-407 forms relinquishing their status as legal permanent residents?  If so, where and when?
  2. Did CBP officers attempt to coerce visa holders into signing I-275 forms to rescind their applications for admission to the United States?  If so, how many instances of this occurred, and where did they occur?
  3. Were there instances at Dulles International Airport in which CBP officers refused to follow a federal court order requiring access to counsel for individuals being detained?  Were there similar instances at other airports or ports of entry?  If so, in how many instances did this occur, and where did it occur?
  4. Did these actions violate CBP internal rules, regulations, guidance, or operations manuals?  Did these actions violate any statutes protecting civil rights and liberties?  Did they implicate any constitutional rights?
  5. Why did these abuses occur?  Did senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House provide guidance or instruction requiring such conduct?
  6. Has the Department of Homeland Security taken disciplinary action against any officers or senior officials involved in these efforts?  Do you recommend that such action be taken?

We fully support the DHS IG’s investigation, and believe further action by the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will help ensure accountability and fairness for all parties involved in the implementation of this Executive Order.  Please let us know immediately if there are any challenges to accessing documents or witnesses.  If the investigatory requests made in this letter will be covered under the scope of the DHS IG’s investigation, we request that you add the signatories of this letter to the list of Members requesting that investigation, and we ask to receive regular updates on its status.  We also request full, unredacted copies of the reports once they are completed, as well as a full briefing at that time.

Thank you for your service to our country and your efforts to ensure our immigration system is administered in a fair, impartial, and constitutional manner.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

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