June 25, 2020

Harris Secures Commitment for Details of Border Agency Involvement with Police Brutality Protests

Full Video of Harris’ Questioning

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday questioned Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan on CBP’s involvement with the ongoing protests against police brutality. Harris got Morgan to commit to releasing vital information on what states the agency went to and who ordered the deployments. Earlier this month, Harris sent a letter to Acting Commissioner Morgan requesting information on ICE and CBP’s involvement in the demonstrations. 

Key Harris-Morgan Exchange:

“Commissioner Morgan, for the past several weeks, as you know, people from all walks of life have been demonstrating in all the 50 states. And they're protesting the unlawful killing of in particular Black men and women, by police. According to a government document obtained by Yahoo News, at least 400 CBP personnel have been deployed to some of these marches. I sent you a letter on June 5th, asking, and it was joined by my colleagues, asking you a number of questions that included – What identification and equipment your personnel are carrying? What forms of force are they authorized to use? And what surveillance are you conducting during these deployments? I have not received a response. Can you give me today a date that I can expect to get that response?” Harris asked.

Morgan responded, “I'll get with the staff, ma'am, and we'll get that to you as fast as we can.” 

By the end of next week, please.” Harris said.

Morgan responded, “We'll do our best to do that. Yes, ma’am.”

“Ok thank you. And given your mission to focus on our borders, why are you deploying your folks to these protests?” Harris asked.

Morgan responded, “Because we were asked.”

By whom?” Harris asked.

Morgan responded, “By a few different individuals. And it's not just that we deployed resources to the national capital region. We also deployed resources all over this country.”

I'm glad you brought that up, which states did you deploy them to?” Harris asked.

Morgan responded, “I have that information. I can provide that to you. It's, I think it was 11 or 12 states that we deployed, and we got those requests from a variety of individuals. We got similar requests from other federal agencies. But we also received those requests directly from state and local police departments that were, specifically requested a certain type of assistance.”

“Great. So, I look forward to the follow-up. And if you could include just as you've mentioned, not only where you've deployed, but also the requester,” Harris said.

Morgan responded, “Yes, ma’am, we have all that information.”

A full transcript of Harris’ questioning can be found below:

HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Commissioner Morgan, for the past several weeks, as you know, people from all walks of life have been demonstrating in all the 50 states. And they're protesting the unlawful killing of in particular Black men and women, by police. According to a government document obtained by Yahoo News, at least 400 CBP personnel have been deployed to some of these marches. I sent you a letter on June 5th, asking, and it was joined by my colleagues, asking you a number of questions that included – What identification and equipment your personnel are carrying? What forms of force are they authorized to use? And what surveillance are you conducting during these deployments? I have not received a response. Can you give me today a date that I can expect to get that response? 

MORGAN: I'll get with the staff, ma'am, and we'll get that to you as fast as we can. 

HARRIS: By the end of next week, please. 

MORGAN: We'll do our best to do that. Yes, ma’am.

HARRIS: Ok thank you. And given your mission to focus on our borders, why are you deploying your folks to these protests? 

MORGAN: Because we were asked. 

HARRIS: By whom? 

MORGAN: By a few different individuals. And it's not just that we deployed resources to the national capital region. We also deployed resources all over this country.

HARRIS: I'm glad you brought that up, which states did you deploy them to? 

MORGAN: I have that information. I can provide that to you. It's, I think it was 11 or 12 states that we deployed, and we got those requests from a variety of individuals. We got similar requests from other federal agencies. But we also received those requests directly from state and local police departments that were, specifically requested a certain type of assistance. 

HARRIS: Great. So, I look forward to the follow-up. And if you could include just as you've mentioned, not only where you've deployed, but also the requester. 

MORGAN: Yes, ma’am, we have all that information. 

HARRIS: Thank you. I appreciate that. As you know US Customs and Border Protection is the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country and has a, unfortunately, a documented history of abuse and misconduct allegations. And there's a 2014 analysis that I'm familiar with by the American Immigration Council, of 809 complaints of abuses by border patrol agencies from 2009 through to 2012, which found that in 97% of the cases in which an outcome was reported, no action was taken against the officer. The complaints included hitting someone's head against a rock, stomping on someone's back, touching women inappropriately, kicking- and kicking a pregnant woman causing her to miscarry. In a 2017 report on 2,178 complaints from 2012 to 2015, the percentage of cases with reported outcomes where no action was taken against the officer was 96%. So obviously, the people in the streets are marching because of their concern about those cases where law enforcement has abused its power and exercised excessive forces, excessive force. How are you dealing with these cases in your agency? Because obviously, these numbers are troubling, when in the high 90% range, there's no action taken on these complaints. Do you believe that that number reflects the actual behaviors that have been reported or do you, and are you confident that you've conducted the investigations accurately and adequately? 

MORGAN: So, I'm not sure what you're implying by that totally. But to answer that question is, yes, I have confidence in the system. I think we have a robust process that when there is an allegation of misconduct that it is fully investigated. 

HARRIS: So, let me, I'll clarify. So, where there were 809 complaints there was no action taken in 97% of the cases. So, you're confident that only 3% of those cases were actionable?

MORGAN: I'm confident ma’am that we, like you said, we're the largest law enforcement organization out of 61,000. And now a single allegation of misconduct is important. But if you look at that numbers and put it in perspective, that number is actually very low for a workforce of 61,000. And what I will say is, is that I am confident the system, is it a perfect system? I would never say that, but I'm confident this system, that we have a cadre of individuals within our own agency, as well as outside agencies, these allegations of misconduct are routinely reviewed from the local district attorney's office, as you well know, to the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, as well as our own internal mechanism as well. So, I'm confident in that system.

HARRIS: What is your internal mechanism? Is there a division within your agency? 

MORGAN: Yes, ma'am. 

HARRIS: What is the name of that division?

MORGAN: Office of Professional Responsibility, back then it would have been called internal affairs. So, we have hundreds and hundreds of special agents that are dedicated their whole job 24/7 is to do nothing but investigate allegations of misconduct. 

HARRIS: And do you report these investigations and outcomes in a public report? 

MORGAN: We put out a report every year. Yes, ma'am. 

HARRIS: And that report, what is the name of that report? 

MORGAN: Yeah, I don't know the title of the report off the top of my head. 

HARRIS: So, you produced one last year as well. 

MORGAN: The last one that I've seen is 2018 and they're working on 2019. 

HARRIS: Okay, when do you expect that to be complete? 

MORGAN: I don't have that information, but I can get that to you. 

HARRIS: Okay, and how are you ensuring them that your personnel who are now being deployed to these demonstrations are complying with your rules and your ethical rules as well? 

MORGAN: So, one, they're trained, and so they fully understand what their use of force guidelines are. We have an appropriate leadership and supervision that is there also. And then we like we always do when there's a special deployment, we have briefings and the totality of circumstances are explained to them, what their mission is and what the expectations are. 

HARRIS: And so, do you have in written documents an outline of what are your stages of discipline for specific types of behavior of your agents when they break the rules or break the law? 

MORGAN: Absolutely, It's well documented, and it's pretty extensive. 

HARRIS: Can you provide our committee with that, please. 

MORGAN: Of course, yes ma’am. 

HARRIS: Thank you. And since March 20th of this year, there was a policy that your agency has implemented that turns away people who come to our border, without fully letting them make their case for why they are in danger in their home countries and deserve refuge in the United States. By many accounts, this policy denies these folks due process and access to our asylum protections. Since implementation of this policy, I understand you've turned away 43,000 people and reportedly at least 2,175 of them are unaccompanied children. 

MORGAN: Ma'am, what policy are you referring to? 

HARRIS: The policy that you initiated on March 20th, 2020. 

MORGAN: CDC order.

HARRIS: Yes.

MORGAN: Right. So, that was actually not a DHS or CBP policy that was actually a CDC directive in order under Title 42. 

HARRIS: Which you implemented. Which you implemented. Right, that's what I said. 

MORGAN: Yes, directed us to implement for the health of the country, yes ma’am.

HARRIS: Right, you implemented it.

MORGAN: Yes ma’am.

HARRIS: Okay, so public leading, public health experts have said that this policy, "fails to protect public health,” and "disregards alternative measures that can protect public health while preserving access to asylum and other protection.” Mr. Chairman, I'm going to ask unanimous consent to submit a package of letters from these organizations into the record. 

CHAIRMAN JOHNSON: Without objection. 

HARRIS: Thank you. So, Commissioner Morgan, I understand today you testified that you have expelled about 2,000 unaccompanied children. Is that right?

MORGAN: We have removed approximately 2,000 children under the CDC Title 42 order to ensure the public health and reduce the introduction of COVID-19 to this country. Yes.

HARRIS: And have any of those children suffered violence, trafficking, assault or any other harm after you turned them away?

MORGAN: We work extensively with the government of the countries that they're being returned to, to make sure that they are returned to in a safe, humane, compassionate way, and that they are actually reunited with their parents in their home country.

HARRIS: Have you ever received any reports of any of those children that you've turned away having been exposed then to any type of abuse or harm? 

MORGAN: No, I've not seen any report.

HARRIS: Have you been told of any reports that?

MORGAN: I've not been told of any specific child that under the CDC order that we returned to their country of origin that was a victim of abuse?

HARRIS: And my last question on this point, how many of those children have been reunified with their family?

MORGAN: We would have to work with a government that we returned them to get that information. The governments would have that information. We don't track that information.

HARRIS: Is there a reason you don't track that information if you are concerned about their safety after you’ve turned them away?

MORGAN: Because we rely on the country of origin for them to reunite them with their family.

HARRIS: I'd ask that you consider putting in place a policy where you do track whether those children are actually reunified with their families once you turn them away.

MORGAN: We could look that, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. 

HARRIS: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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