SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Ten House and Senate committee chairs have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to launch an investigation of so-called Critical Incident Teams within U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Furthermore, the chairs of two congressional committees are requesting information by early next month about “potential misconduct” within these units, also referred to as “shadow units.”
The actions are a result of the letter sent by the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) in October to congressional oversight committees requesting the investigations.
The letter alleges Border Patrol leadership and agents are involved in covering up evidence and mitigating the liability of border agents.
According to the SBCC, it has records indicating the Border Patrol used cover-up teams to alter government documents, destroy evidence, disperse witnesses, withhold evidence and intrude on autopsies.
“We discovered instances of these critical incident teams,” said Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, an advocate for equality and immigrant rights.
Guerrero says it uncovered the evidence as they helped the widow of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, who was killed after being beaten by Border Patrol agents in 2010.
“With the role they played in the case, we looked at other cases over time throughout the border region and we see them there as well,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero hopes Congress sees their findings and decides to do away with what she calls “rogue investigation teams.”
“We know they don’t have any legal authority to operate, they are not recognized by the federal law and have been operating in the shadows for 30 years. Congress itself is not aware of them,” she said. “We hope these investigations yield full understanding of extent of scale of cover up units. … We believe these Border Patrol units should be eliminated once and for all.”
CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus responded to the congressional investigations by calling the critical incident teams “virtually important.”
During an interview with Bloomberg, Magnus said “maintaining the public’s trust is vital to our mission and we look forward to addressing CBP’s commitment to transparency and accountability with the GAO and Congressional committees.”
He also told Bloomberg that his agency has updated its oversight, training, and use of force policies.