Bill to Create Immigrant Abuse Watchdog Passes House

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill to create a new government watchdog tasked with fielding and investigating complaints of abuse of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This undated photo provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Friday, July 5, 2019 shows a drawing by a migrant child at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. The release of the pictures followed a government watchdog report warning about overcrowded South Texas facilities holding migrant families. (American Academy of Pediatrics via AP)

The bill, passed 230-194 Wednesday afternoon, would create a new, independent office within the Department of Homeland Security that would take in and investigate future allegations of abuse of immigrants at the southern border. The office would set up a confidential process to review complaints and could refer complaints to the agency’s inspector general and other offices for further action.

The new office would send a yearly report to Congress containing the number of complaints it received and details about each complaint. It would also work alongside a 30-member border oversight panel made up of experts on immigration, civil rights and other topics related to the border.

The version of the bill the House passed dropped language from earlier versions that would have ended the Trump administration’s controversial asylum rules and put other restrictions on federal immigration policy.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said while she would have liked to see those provisions in the legislation, the bill the House approved is nevertheless critical to provide oversight of immigration enforcement and policy.

“Every law enforcement officer, I say to their families, I want them to go home to their families,” Jackson Lee said on the House floor Wednesday. “But to every human being who comes desperate for the hope and the blessings of America, who has not come to do us harm, I want to be able to have the oversight that is in this bill, the accountability and transparency in that border area.”

Republicans called the bill unnecessary, noting the Department of Homeland Security already has sections more than capable of investigating allegations of abuse.

“All this bill does is waste taxpayers’ dollars on a duplicative new office designed to demoralize law enforcement and serve the demands of illegal immigrants,” Representative Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said on the House floor.

The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, calling it an effort to “micromanage the Department of Homeland Security.”

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