Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher issued a long-awaited directive March 7 to clarify the agency's use-of-force policy. Don't fire weapons at moving vehicles or in response to rock-throwing, the directive (.pdf) says – not unless there's grounds for believing that "an immediate danger of death of serious injury" exists.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson stressed the need to reform the Border Patrol's use-of-force policies during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Feb. 26. Johnson said he wanted to personally review recent cases where Border Patrol agents used force, "to ensure that we're getting this right."
The number of foreigners deemed inadmissible and turned away at ports of entry along the southwestern border rose significantly in fiscal 2013, according to new statistics from Customs and Border Protection. Apprehensions by Border Patrol agents continued to outnumber denials of entry.
Documents newly uncovered via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show Customs and Border Protection blurring the line between border security and other law enforcement operations through the frequency of its unmanned aerial vehicle flights on behalf of other agencies, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
As a result of omnibus appropriations legislation funding federal agencies through September, Customs and Border Protection will have a record level of agents and officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have the highest detention capacity in history. The House approved the $1.02 trillion funding measure by a vote of 359-67; the bill is expected to pass the Senate.
To the dismay of many members of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, the official that the Homeland Security Department sent to testify about abuse of overtime pay had little to report on the matter during a hearing Nov. 20.
Members of the House and Senate from both parties introduced legislation Nov. 13 to reform the pay system for Border Patrol agents.
On Sept. 25, CBP announced a range of actions it has begun to take or plans to take to address use-of-force issues. Video cameras on Border Patrol agents and expanded basic training are among the possibilities. Eventually, CBP plans to pilot the use of cameras mounted on its agents and their vehicles to reduce use of force and also protect employees against false allegations.
The database that tracks complaints of misconduct by Customs and Border Protection employees doesn't include a category for allegations of use of force, the Homeland Security Department office of inspector general says. "As a result, we were unable to determine the total number of excessive force allegations and investigations involving CBP employees," the OIG says.
Integrity training for Customs and Border Protection employees is routine and standardized, though it's not yet part of a formal strategy that CBP called for in 2009, the Government Accountability Office says.