Author: Victor Nieblas Pradis

Dangerous Exceptions?

In a recent op-ed in The Hill, James Tomsheck, former head of the Office of Internal Affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lays out in detail why House and Senate efforts to weaken CBP hiring standards by waiving the polygraph test for certain applicants is a bad idea. Mr. Tomsheck has spent 40 years in law enforcement and knows firsthand how important it is to ensure that those hired by CBP are people with integrity. One of the tools used to measure integrity and suitability for a position with CBP is a polygraph test.  Toward that end,...

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When Will They Listen?

Family detention is wrong. The mass incarceration and detention of asylum seekers is wrong. The detention of immigrants who are not flight risks and pose no danger to community or national safety is wrong. It’s not just me saying it, or just AILA saying it, or even churches, community groups, NGOs, and Congressional Members. Now, the United Nations is saying it as well. This week, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention completed a two-week visit to the U.S. I hadn’t realized there was a working group on arbitrary detention until this working group geared up to visit, but given the abuse of the detention mechanism around the world, I am heartened to know the subject is being tracked and investigated by the U.N. However, I am embarrassed for our country that the need existed to examine what the U.S. government has been doing. On Monday, the group issued its preliminary findings after meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of State, the Office of the Special Envoy on Guantanamo Closure, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, as well as authorities in Texas, California and Illinois. In addition, the group met with many stakeholders, and toured the family detention center in Dilley, Texas. During its investigation, the Working Group met with 280 detained individuals to gather information from their situations and experiences....

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Baby Steps Toward Transparency

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took another small step toward transparency – issuing a Request for Quote (RFQ) for 108 body-worn cameras and 12 vehicle-mounted cameras. It probably seems strange to get even a little bit excited about the announcement of a bureaucratic process, but in the case of CBP transparency, every step, even baby steps, are important after years of push-back and blockades in the fight for body-worn cameras. Despite the ever-growing evidence that body-worn cameras benefit all parties, CBP has failed to implement the use of these cameras throughout the field. In a statement, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said, “CBP is committed to expanding the use of cameras to increase transparency, accountability, and officer and agent safety. The body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras from this purchase will be tested by agents and officers in the field. What we learn from this initial deployment to several operational environments will help CBP refine requirements that will lead to a larger procurement in the near future.” Last November, CBP announced its intention to conduct more testing and evaluation rather than actually implement a program to employ the use of body-worn cameras. As I said back in November, it is beyond belief that, given all that we know about the power of video to shine a light on the actions of law enforcement agents and officers, as well as...

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When Pictures Are Worth More than a Thousand Words

I had heard stories about Border Patrol’s mistreatment of immigrants. When I volunteered in Artesia, New Mexico, and Dilley, Texas, the mothers and children there told me what a horrible experience they’d had in Border Patrol custody. Over the years, I’d become familiar with the term hieleras, or iceboxes, shorthand for the freezing cold and filthy Border Patrol facilities, in addition to the perreras, or dog pounds. But now, thanks to a lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrants by the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others, the entire nation is seeing for themselves the horrors that have long-been described. Adults and children held in extremely close quarters with only a thin mylar blanket for cover. Diapers being changed on top of the same unsanitary blanket that covered a mother and her child for hours. No showers. No privacy. And empty rooms nearby that could have alleviated the crowded conditions. When I spoke to the detained mothers, they told me about the horrendous conditions. Their children were the first to suffer; the first to get sick due to the extreme cold. Running noses, uncontrollable coughing, and frozen sandwiches were routine in the hieleras. One mother said she had to sleep on top of her daughter, cuddling her, to keep her warm. Another told me the floors were like a sheet of ice. I was taken aback at how easily...

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This Father’s Day

On Sunday, my kids will wake me up extra early and play “Las Mañanitas” to wish me a Happy Father’s Day while handing me handmade Father’s Day cards. They’ll give me extra hugs and tell me they love me. That’s what’s done on Father’s Day in my house. It’s nothing special, though it means a lot to me personally. But there are a lot of fathers out there who won’t get that chance. Their kids won’t give them that extra hug or make them breakfast, because the Obama Administration is refusing to treat Central American families fleeing violence as refugees. Instead, they are treating them as illegal border crossers and separating families at the border – fathers are torn away and unable to protect or comfort their families, while mothers and children are sent terrified to incarceration. I have served as a volunteer at both the Artesia and Dilley family detention facilities. I have seen the painful toll that detention places on these mothers and children, and as a father, it’s hard to stomach. I’m not the only father feeling these emotions though – we recently asked other CARA volunteer dads to tell us about their experiences. Here are some of their reflections: “The Texas rain creates red mud that gets tracked into the detention facility. In the waiting room, the lines between white tiles get the worst of...

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