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Tlaib & Raskin Demand Answers From DHS About Rampant Racism Among Michigan CBP

An ACLU report found that border agents in Michigan were disproportionately detaining people of Latin American descent.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

Following a report suggesting that Border Patrol agents at the northern border of the U.S. are likely engaging in racist discrimination against citizens and immmigrants of Latin American origin or descent, Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) have sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding more information on the alleged practice.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan found from analyzing 13,000 Border Patrol apprehension records between 2012 and 2019 earlier this year that the state’s Border Patrol agents disproportionately detain immigrants from Latin America.

“Border Patrol engages in blatant racial profiling,” wrote ACLU of Michigan, detailing how agents use “complexion codes” to describe people they apprehend. The organization found that 85 percent of noncitizens detained by Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), were from Latin America, while more than 70 percent of people arrested crossing the border illegally in the North are actually from Canada or a European country.

CBP also “routinely spend their time and resources targeting people of Latin American origin who are long-term Michigan residents,” most often detaining people for completely nonimmigration related activities, the ACLU of Michigan writes. In nearly a fifth of the arrests, ACLU found, agents used people speaking Spanish as a reason for arresting them.

Tlaib and Raskin said in their letter that they are “deeply troubled” by the allegations in the report.

“We write to request a briefing and information on efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to respond to serious allegations of discrimination and misuse of taxpayer resources by Border Patrol agents on Michigan’s border with Canada, spanning multiple administrations,” wrote Tlaib and Raskin in their letter sent Wednesday.

“DHS must provide a full explanation of exactly how it is addressing the problems laid bare by the ACLU,” they said. The lawmakers demand information on how CBP is responding to the issues laid out in the report and request records on the agency’s activities in the area.

“An explosive ACLU report reveals that Custom and Border Patrol agents in Michigan overwhelmingly stop and detain people of Latin American origin,” wrote Raskin on Twitter. “[Rep. Rashida Tlaib] and I are demanding answers.”

CBP has long perpetuated racism across the country and within its ranks. A 2019 report by ProPublica found that border agents participate in a secret Facebook group in which they share vile and vulgar memes and “jokes,” often offensive and racist, with each other, signalling the culture of CBP itself.

After the agency vowed to act on the hateful posts, it did little to actually enact change among its rank and file. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which launched an investigation into the agency, says that CBP officials have rebuffed their efforts, refusing to comply with lawmakers and obstructing the effort.

The lawmakers indeed point out that it’s not just Michigan where border agents are participating in racist discrimination.

“As is the case in Michigan, CBP enforcement actions in other states within the border zone appear to be largely unrelated to disrupting attempts to illegally enter the country,” they wrote. “For example, a study of transportation stops in Rochester, New York, found that less than 1% of stops were made upon entry into the country and that 76% of detainees had been present in the United States for more than one year.”

The reports line up with the experience of Black CBP officers who sued the agency in July claiming that they were forced to discriminate against nonwhite people at the behest of their white supervisors.

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