Both of these photos appeared on social media yesterday. Can’t the U.S. Border Patrol just use a regular American flag at its events, instead of this “green line” flag? At least when involving children?
I understand that the design is meant to honor fallen agents. But it also portrays Border Patrol as a line of defense protecting “good” people from “others.” Who is implied to be on the other side of that line?
Several days after January 6, 2021, I wrote about why I’m uncomfortable with the pro-police “Blue Line” flag, which appeared often that day even as rioters attacked police at the Capitol.
I don’t host events very often, and I’ve wanted to do this one for a while.
There’s a few colleagues in Washington and at the U.S.-Mexico border whose work I really admire: people who take testimonies from migrants about abuse they say they suffered at the hands of U.S. border law enforcement agencies (CBP and Border Patrol), and people who doggedly follow the DHS complaints process and otherwise seek reforms to hold abusers accountable. It’s hard work.
I’m delighted that four of these colleagues accepted my invitation to talk about their work, what they’re finding, what happens when you try to achieve justice or redress after an abuse occurs, and how to bring about institutional and cultural change.
We’ll be talking at 1:00pm Eastern next Tuesday in this virtual event. I’ll share the video on YouTube (and embedded here) afterward. Please join, and share—here’s the WOLA event announcement.
In our work at the U.S.-Mexico border, we regularly hear about abuses or improper law enforcement behavior by U.S. security agencies. But so often, whatever happens gets overtaken by the next events, forgotten.
I wanted to start damming up this steady, alarming stream going by us all the time. So, many months ago, I set up a new WordPress install, and my staff and I started throwing into it everything we’ve seen and heard since 2020 about abuses committed at the border.
The result is a database that we’re hosting at borderoversight.org. It has more than 220 entries so far, fully cited. We’ve captured these events and allegations, and organized them by category, place, agency, victim, and “accountability status.”
I’m not exactly “proud” of what we’ve created here. Actually, trying to read through it is a monstrous experience. There’s only so many use-of-force incidents, high-speed vehicle pursuits, spied-on U.S. citizens, Facebook slurs, non-return of belongings, dangerous deportations, and timid oversight that one can take in a single sitting. The picture is grim.
I don’t want this to be viewed, though, as an attack on the individuals who’ve chosen to build a career as a Border Patrol agent or CBP officer. I have met many agents and officers, and found nearly all to be decent and honorable people. But take CBP and Border Patrol as a whole, and something changes. Organizational cultures are powerful.
Our maintenance of borderoversight.org will be continuous: a database is never “done,” but we’ll use it to spin off a lot of other materials and carry out further work on what’s causing this problem and how to reform it.
I hope you find it useful as we work for greater accountability and cultural change at these agencies.
Of course, I get that nobody wants to read through a database. Here’s a 2,100-word commentary giving an overview of what the project is about and what we’re finding (español).
We added a page with links to reports about the border: from WOLA, from the U.S. and other governments, from non-governmental colleagues, and from the media. Organized by category. More than 270 of them so far are at borderoversight.org/reports.
The Biden administration has named reformist border-state sheriffs to head CBP and ICE—two agencies in serious need of reform. If confirmed, they may face real friction with management and rank-and-file. Great conversation about this today with Michel Martin on NPR’s All Things Considered.