In an effort to provide more protections to individuals entering the United States and to increase accountability on the part of border patrol and immigration enforcement agents due to recent reports and online social media videos showing use of unnecessary force and violations of human rights, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York just introduced a bill to address these concerns. Under this bill, which is co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the Department of Homeland Security Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) would require border patrol and immigration enforcement agents to document every instance when they stop, search, or interrogate people. The law applies to all stops by agents who work for United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This bill introduced by Senator Gillibrand counters the current law in which agents from both departments have broad authority to stop and question people about their immigration status. Under the present ruling, agents may pull over cars and board vehicles to ask passengers about their immigration status if they suspect a person is not in the country legally. In recent months, videos of Border Patrol agents boarding buses in New York and Florida have gone viral on social media, alarming civil rights groups and raising questions about human rights and constitutional rights. At issue is the Fourth Amendment which gives individuals a certain right to privacy and protection from unreasonable government intrusions and searches. Concerns relate to places individuals under protracted investigatory detention in addition to conducting humiliating and oft-times warrantless public searches.

“Keeping our country safe cannot come at a cost to basic human rights….When border patrol agents stop and question people in New York and in many places across the country, they aren’t keeping data about why they targeted a particular person or what happened during their encounter, ” says Gillibrand. Senator Warren added “without critical data to track stops and searches, Congress and the public cannot fully monitor and hold agents accountable when they cross the line.”

At the Shulman Law Group, a nationally-recognized firm dedicated to serving the immigrant population, the immigration law team applauds Senators Gillibrand, Warren, Udall, and Merkley for introducing this critically important bill that increases accountability and transparency on the part of Border Patrol and ICE agents, reducing unwarranted public searches. Firm founder Edward Shulman commented that any legislation that seeks to protect the human rights of immigrants is to be championed.