Before his testimony to Congress today asking for more border funds, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was the recipient of a coalition letter from over 100 organizations urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urging it to cease any targeting of activists, journalists, and lawyers based on their First Amendment-protected speech and associational activities. The coalition demanded that DHS address alarming reports of surveillance activity by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that jeopardizes First Amendment rights and access to legal counsel, and may violate the Privacy Act of 1974.
As outlined in the letter, ICE documented and disseminated lists of “Anti-Trump” protests in New York City. In addition, CBP allegedly targeted and created dossiers on activists, lawyers, and journalists working with and reporting on asylum seekers. First-hand accounts revealed a pattern of harassment including extended detentions and interrogations, electronic device searches at ports of entry, and denial of re-entry to Mexico.
These actions represent a frightening pattern of threats against First Amendment protected activity, especially since the DHS continues to be secretive about other significant issues ranging from abuses within private detention facilities to its use of private technology in immigration enforcement and deportations – all of which warrant scrutiny from activists, journalists and relevant lawyers.
The coalition demanded that DHS cease impermissible targeting, monitoring, and harassment of activists, journalists, and lawyers at the border, and disclose the policies, guidelines, and training materials that govern these activities.
Congress is actively investigating the reports, and the DHS Investigator General has been tasked with reviewing CBP’s conduct. We strongly support a thorough and complete investigation and urge Congress to ensure that our government agencies are held accountable for their actions even as they request additional funding from the nation’s coffers.
Read the full letter to DHS here.