House Democrat Accuses Border Agents of Human-Rights Violations
Patrol's union chief blasts Rep. Kaptur for ‘dangerous' comment, 'attack' on law enforcement
A congresswoman from Ohio took a swipe at U.S. Border Patrol agents on Tuesday, accusing them of committing human-rights violations.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) made the accusation during a debate in the House Appropriations Committee on a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. She was advocating for a proposed amendment — defeated on a party-line vote — to shift money from immigration enforcement to the hiring of more customs officers.
Kaptur argued that hiring 500 more U.S. Border Patrol agents, as the Republican bill would do, is unneeded and would harm people seeking asylum.
"We've already seen a steady decline in individuals attempting to cross the border, as we've seen a steady uptick in the violations of human rights perpetrated by the current Border Patrol agents," she said.
Kaptur did not elaborate. She may be referring to a lawsuit filed last week by an immigration rights organization accusing Border Patrol agents of failing to follow asylum law. In addition, a report in May by the group Human Rights First alleges that border agents illegally have turned back dozens of asylum seekers at the Mexican border without referring them for screening.
Kaptur also lambasted the bill's funds to hire an additional 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers for the interior of the country.
"And we know what will happen to children, to DREAMers, to their families, to asylum seekers, to longtime residents of our country who pose no risk to public safety," she said.
Kaptur's allegation against border agents drew a sharp rebuke from Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
"That is such a dangerous comment," he told LifeZette. "To have a congresswoman attack law enforcement without any proof is dangerous … None of that was ever substantiated. None of that was ever proven."
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, also criticized Kaptur.
"That's a pretty outrageous statement without having evidence to back that up … It is detrimental to people working out there, putting their lives on the line."
"That's a pretty outrageous statement without having evidence to back that up … It is detrimental to people working out there, putting their lives on the line," he said.
Mehlman said it is remarkable that a sitting member of Congress would make such a sweeping statement about the men and women sworn to uphold federal immigration law.
"There seems to be enormous hostility to the notion that we should enforce our laws," he said.
Mehlman recalled that former President Bill Clinton moved to stop asylum abuse in the 1990s. Foreigners began boarding planes, flushing travel documents down the toilet, and then asking for asylum when they landed. Many of those people disappeared after authorities released them. The administration began stationing screeners at major airports to adjudicate their claims on the spot, and the phenomenon withered.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said interest groups are upset that President Donald Trump's administration has detained asylum seekers or has kept them in Mexico while authorities review their claims to see if they meet international standards for asylum.
Under the administration of President Barack Obama, may people seeking asylum gained entry into the United States, complete with temporary work papers. Vaughan said authorities did not rule on their asylum claims for many months or even years.
"What they're reacting to is a change in policy that started with the Obama administration, with Cubans, but the Trump administration applied to everyone, I think with a lot of justification," she said.