This has already been noted in calls from a coalition of borderland and human rights organizations last October and lawmakers Juan Vargas, Sara Jacobs, and Joaquin Castro the following month. Lawmakers noted “accusations of obstruction of justice, corruption, and extreme misconduct.” We’ve heard little in response, including from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, throughout that time.
But following 10 Congressional committees and subcommittees seeking a Government Accountability Office (GAO) probe into the units (along with two of those committees announcing their own joint investigation), it has become impossible for officials to keep ignoring the issue. Bloomberg Government says that following the committee announcements this week, Magnus “signaled a willingness to cooperate with oversight investigations”—how generous!—saying the agency looked “forward to addressing CBP’s commitment to transparency and accountability with the GAO and Congressional committees.”
Transparency and accountability are two words not in the vocabulary of these units, however. Experts and lawmakers alike have noted these shadow police units are engaged in specific investigations that are way beyond their authority.
In announcing their investigations this week, the House Oversight and House Homeland committees said: “Congress has not provided the U.S. Border Patrol with specific authority to conduct investigations of its agents’ misconduct, and the CBP commissioner has not publicly delegated this authority to Border Patrol.” They note the units are not mentioned in CBP’s Use of Force Administrative Guidelines and Procedures Handbook.
“Let’s be clear, #BorderPatrol shadow units are not authorized by Congress to engage in federal investigations in agent-involved killings and other use-of-force incidents,” tweeted the Southern Border Communities Coalition. “They are simply unlawful.” Alliance San Diego Executive Director Andrea Guerrero wrote the units “have no authority, are not neutral fact finders & their stated purpose is to protect agents from liability.”
Magnus was confirmed by a 50-47 vote last month after being nominated by President Biden back in April. The New York Times reported last year that Magnus, who was formerly Tucson police chief, was critical of the previous administration’s anti-immigrant policies. Magnus now has a unique opportunity to rein in this abusive force.
“We demand justice for Border Patrol’s victims and their families,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas tweeted. “The agency’s ‘critical incident teams’ undermine accountability and must be eliminated.”