More than two years ago (see my 2018 blog below) President Trump sent the National Guard to our Mexican border. I questioned then, as I do now, whether that was a good strategic decision or just another attempt to generate public support to build a border wall already in place. As a political decision, it failed to generate public or Congressional support. I questioned then, as I do now, how exactly the National Guard, who are trained as soldiers, were to be used along the border since few, unlike Customs and Border Protection, speak Spanish, know immigration law, are familiar with the culture of those who live on both sides of the border, or know how to effectively guard our unique geographical border with Mexico.
These are, in short, all skills and daily experiences CBP agents alone possess, differentiating them from not just the National Guard, but most other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and programs. Of equal concern is that CBP also possesses its own history and agency culture which clearly suggests it should not be deployed for most other law enforcement assignments and tasks.
In recent weeks CBP President Trump called upon CBP to protect Washington, D.C., during the protests. In addition, a CBP drone was spotted and documented over Minneapolis during protests of the shooting of Mr. George Floyd. Minneapolis is not within the jurisdiction of CBP.
Just as the National Guard does not have the training or experience to support CBP agents along the border, CBP agents lack the training and experience to provide other law enforcement agencies support for controlling protests by U.S. citizens. Nor do they possess a history or culture demonstrating they are capable of crowd control of American citizens. If this were not enough to question President Trump’s decision, there is also the fact CBP agents have extraordinary legal powers when compared to other law enforcement agencies.
These legal powers make sense when applied to CBP’s patrolling of actual border areas, but absolutely no sense when applied to citizen protestors exercising their first amendment and fourth amendment rights. Among these unusual legal powers held by CBP agents is the right to stop an individual, search them, confiscate items including their phone and computer, and arrest U.S. citizens if the circumstances meet the level of what CBP agent’s believe to be reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is a much lower legal standard than the legal standard of probable cause which municipal police, for example, are sworn to uphold.
The first question then becomes how effective was the CBP, given its expertise in border enforcement, in providing support to other law enforcers and controlling protestors to the letter of the law? Further, were the extraordinary legal powers of the CBP used against protestors who are citizens of this country? Why was the CBP called in the first place by the current administration to control protests by U.S. citizens? And, finally, which federal agency asked the CBP to provide their drone to surveil Minneapolis, which is not within the jurisdiction the CBP is allocated to cover?
These are but some of the important questions the public should be asking and CBP should be answering. Why is the CBP silent? Why should the CBP with its special skill sets and extraordinary legal powers, as created by Congress in 1924, be deployed against protests by U.S. citizens? This is not a natural disaster, in which case the CBP after Hurricane Katrina indeed provided aid and comfort to those who suffered.
Who, in the public’s best interest, is watching the CBP?