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house Bill H.R. 4713

Should Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties be Reauthorized & Reformed to Protect Against Violations?

Argument in favor

Numerous civil rights and liberties violations, as well as more serious human rights violations, have been documented against the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) as a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten immigration policies and procedures. These deeply troubling allegations haven’t been taken seriously enough, and an Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is needed to make DHS take these investigations more seriously and ensure that complaints are addressed in a timely manner.

jimK's Opinion
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12/09/2019
Yes this is needed. There have been so many dehumanizing, racially oriented and other human rights abuses by DHS reported that they need to institutionalize a conscience, a human rights advocate and voice to protect people from such abuses and protect the agency from fallacious charges. These office functions are an integral part of most all ‘enforcement’ agencies and I am surprised that is not for DHS.
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Rebekah 's Opinion
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12/09/2019
If you ever wondered how you would react to slavery or German concentration camps, now you know.
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Lisa's Opinion
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12/09/2019
If we allow security to outweigh civil rights, then what are we protecting? Our Constitution calls for balance. We must protect civil rights.
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Argument opposed

The Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Inspector General already share responsibility for receiving and investigating civil rights and liberties complaints related to DHS policies and procedures. This legislation would be duplicative of these existing efforts and therefore isn’t needed. The fact that the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would only investigate complaints not taken up by the DHS IG is proof that this officer isn’t needed.

burrkitty's Opinion
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12/09/2019
DHS should be axed and it’s duties returned to the original department’s. Nothing the feds did in response to 911 was correct. Not the war with the wrong target for imaginary WMD’s, not our new gestapo ICE, not the TSA Craziness, not the PATRIOT act, not DHS, nothing. Literally, nothing.
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Leslie's Opinion
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12/09/2019
Oversight and audit functions should never report to the organization they are monitoring! Homeland security keeps trying to co-opt more resources with the last being use of state & local law enforcement to do its bidding. Homeland security is creating a police state that needs regulating externally not from within!
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Page's Opinion
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12/09/2019
Dept of Homeland Security is a redundancy and should be dissolved. It seems to be an organization that specializes in violations of citizens’ civil rights, and was an overreaction to 9/11. I’ve always thought 9/11 simply gave the government an excuse to create a gestapo-like government organization.
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What is House Bill H.R. 4713?

This bill — the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Authorization Act — would modify the law establishing theOffice for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties within the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS).  It would establish an Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, who would be responsible for leading the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and ensuring DHS’ compliance with constitutional, statutory, regulatory, policy, and other requirements relating to protecting the civil rights and civil liberties of people affected by DHS programs activities. 

Additionally, the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would be responsible for:

  • Integrating civil rights and civil liberties protections into all DHS programs and activities;
  • Conducting civil rights and civil liberties impact assessments, as appropriate;
  • Conducting periodic reviews of DHS policies, procedures, and activities relating to civil rights and civil liberties;
  • Providing policy advice, recommendations, and other technical assistance relating to civil rights and civil liberties to the DHS Secretary and to DHS’ departmental leaders (such as heads of components, directorates, offices, and other personnel at the agency);
  • Reviewing, assessing, and investigating complaints (including complaints filed by members of the public) and information indicating possible civil rights and civil liberties violations at DHS, unless the DHS Inspector General (DHS IG) determines that they should investigate the complaint or information;
  • Coordinating with the Privacy Officer to ensure that programs, policies, and procedures involving civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy considerations are addressed in an integrated and comprehensive manner and that Congress receives appropriate reports on such programs, policies, and procedures;
  • Leading DHS’ equal employment opportunity programs, including compliant management and adjudication, and promoting workforce diversity and merit system principles;
  • Making information on their responsibilities and functions, as well as their contact information, publicly available through accessible communications channels, including the DHS website;
  • Making the reports they issue upon completion of investigations carried out in response to complaints or information publicly available through accessible communications channels, including the DHS website; and
  • Engaging with individuals and communities whose civil rights and civil liberties might be affected by DHS programs and activities, including by informing them about report and redress procedures and advising the DHS Secretary and department leaders (such as heads of components, directorates, offices, and other department personnel) of any concerns such individuals or communities raise.

Before initiating any investigation, the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would need to refer the matter and all related complaints, allegations, and information to the DHS IG. The DHS IG would then be responsible for making a determination as to whether or not to initiate an audit or investigation of the matter and notifying the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of their decision. 

If the DHS IG notifies the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that they intend to initiate an audit or investigation, the DHS IG would have to initiate the audit or investigation no later than 90 days after providing the notice to the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and to notify the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the audit or investigation’s completion within three days. The Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties could provide assistance to the DHS IG to complete audits or investigations. If the DHS IG notifies the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that it doesn’t intend to initiate an audit or investigation or notifies the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that an audit or investigation wasn’t initiated, the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would be allowed to investigate the matter in question.

This bill would ensure that the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties has access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, and other materials available to DHS relating to programs and operations. It would also give the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties the power (subject to approval by the DHS Secretary) to:

  • Issue subpoenas to require the production, by any person other than a federal agency, of all information, documents, reports, answers, records, accounts, papers, and other documentary evidence required to help the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties fulfill their duties; and
  • Administer or take from any person an oath, affirmation, or affidavit to help the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties fulfill their duties.

The Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would also submit an annual report to the president, president of the Senate, House Speaker, and appropriate Congressional committees and subcommittees detailing the implementation and results of this legislation. Each report would include: 

  • Any allegations of abuse reported to DHS and any actions taken as a result;
  • A list of DHS programs and activities for which civil rights and civil liberties impact assessments were conducted; 
  • Any recommendations issued by the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties or DHS personnel meant to improve civil rights and civil liberties protections, and the status of such recommendations’ implementation; 
  • Information on DHS’ diversity and equal employment opportunity activities, including information on complaint management and adjudication of equal employment opportunity complaints and efforts to ensure DHS-wide compliance with equal employment opportunity requirements;
  • A description of any efforts, including public meetings, to engage with individuals and communities whose civil rights and civil liberties may be affected by DHS activities; and
  • Information on total staffing for the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Impact

Civil rights and civil liberties; DHS; and the establishment of an office at DHS to protect and investigate potential violations of civil rights and liberties.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 4713

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Al Green (D-TX) introduced this bill to improve accountability and transparency at the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS). After it passed the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Green said

“H.R. 4713 – the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Authorization Act – will improve the accountability, transparency, and responsibility of the office that is intended to oversee civil rights and liberties. The legislation calls for investigative reports and reviews of Department programs to be publicized on the Department’s website and establishes CRCL officers to guarantee improved oversight. A significant requirement of [this bill] is that CRCL officers must submit an annual report of their findings to the President and Congress. As Members of Congress, it is imperative that we provide safeguards against bad DHS policies and programs that effectively threaten constitutional rights.”

This legislation passed the House Homeland Security Committee with the support of two bipartisan cosponsors (one from each party).


Of NoteThe DHS already has an Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) that’s responsible for reviewing and investigating civil rights and civil liberties complaints regarding DHS policies and activities. This office is responsible for reviewing and assessing allegations involving civil rights abuses, including:

  • Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability;
  • Violation of rights while in immigration detention or as a subject of immigration enforcement;
  • Discrimination or inappropriate questioning related to entry into the United States;
  • Violation of due process rights, such as the right to timely notice of charges or access to a lawyer;
  • Violation of confidentiality provisions of the Violence Against Women Act;
  • Physical abuse or any other type of abuse;
  • Denial of meaningful access to DHS or DHS-supported programs, activities, or services due to limited English proficiency; and
  • Any other civil rights, civil liberties, or human rights violation related to a Department program or activity, including allegations of discrimination by an organization or program that receives financial assistance from DHS.

It also reviews and investigates human rights complaints and disability accommodation complaints. Anyone who wants to file a complaint with CRCL can do so by completing a fillable complaint form from the DHS website and submitting the form e-mail, fax, or mail. The office accepts complaints in all languages, and also provides the complaint form in nine foreign languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitain Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese).

In an October 2019 report, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that recent changes in U.S. policy had “resulted in serious civil rights implications, including the protection of the physical and mental well-being of both adult and child immigration detainees and their due process rights.” Based on its findings, the Commission concluded that “the Trump Administration has implemented immigration policies that appear to violate constitutional due process rights and basic standards of medical and mental health care, and seemingly target migrants based on demographics including national origin, language status, and gender.”

The Commission’s report also implicated federal agency failures as part of the problem, as they had failed to implement recommendations from a 2015 report on the same issue: 

“[T]he new testimony and data indicate that federal agencies have not heeded the Commission’s recommendations from its 2015 report. Agencies continue not to provide appropriate and critical legal and medical services to detainees, or transparency about the government’s policies in detaining individuals. Further, agencies continue inequitable treatment of LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities, and non-English speakers.”

Ellen Gallagher, a policy adviser at DHS who has spent the past five years attempt to sound the alarm within the federal government about the rampant use of solitary confinement on vulnerable people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody), says, “We have created and continue to support a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings… People [are] being brutalized.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Ole Schwander)

AKA

Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Authorization Act

Official Title

To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to make certain improvements in the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security
    IntroducedOctober 17th, 2019
    Yes this is needed. There have been so many dehumanizing, racially oriented and other human rights abuses by DHS reported that they need to institutionalize a conscience, a human rights advocate and voice to protect people from such abuses and protect the agency from fallacious charges. These office functions are an integral part of most all ‘enforcement’ agencies and I am surprised that is not for DHS.
    Like (24)
    Follow
    Share
    DHS should be axed and it’s duties returned to the original department’s. Nothing the feds did in response to 911 was correct. Not the war with the wrong target for imaginary WMD’s, not our new gestapo ICE, not the TSA Craziness, not the PATRIOT act, not DHS, nothing. Literally, nothing.
    Like (26)
    Follow
    Share
    Oversight and audit functions should never report to the organization they are monitoring! Homeland security keeps trying to co-opt more resources with the last being use of state & local law enforcement to do its bidding. Homeland security is creating a police state that needs regulating externally not from within!
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    If you ever wondered how you would react to slavery or German concentration camps, now you know.
    Like (8)
    Follow
    Share
    If we allow security to outweigh civil rights, then what are we protecting? Our Constitution calls for balance. We must protect civil rights.
    Like (7)
    Follow
    Share
    Dept of Homeland Security is a redundancy and should be dissolved. It seems to be an organization that specializes in violations of citizens’ civil rights, and was an overreaction to 9/11. I’ve always thought 9/11 simply gave the government an excuse to create a gestapo-like government organization.
    Like (5)
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    Share
    This is not necessary
    Like (5)
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    No, DHS already has this capability & yet, the atrocities continue to happen! What we need is an outside Civil Liberties Agency with investigative, regulatory & oversight to keep this agency in check. We need laws that are humane regarding immigrants. We need an administration that believes it is unthinkable to cage children, separate families, and mistreat human beings. What we don’t need is more of DHS investigating its own wrongdoings...that’s not working!
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    We should not keep children in cages.
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    The issue is trust. This would be great and might improve the treatment of people in their care. When has Trump or the Republicans let a little thing like the law get in their way? Trump supporters aren’t even fazed by the lawlessness of this Administration. Until there is an Administration in power that respects the rule of law, No. We can’t ever get Trump or the Republicans to respect and abide by the laws or Constitution why do we need more?
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    ... but check with Putin first. He’s the boss.
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    This to totally unnecessary. Other agencies are already addressing this issue.
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    No way... no how!
    Like (2)
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    Numerous civil rights and liberties violations, as well as more serious human rights violations, have been documented against the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) as a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten immigration policies and procedures. These deeply troubling allegations haven’t been taken seriously enough, and an Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is needed to make DHS take these investigations more seriously and ensure that complaints are addressed in a timely manner.
    Like (2)
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    DHS and ICE need to be axed and their responsibilities returned to the original departments. I can’t think of anything positive that these two departments have contributed to the US since their inception.
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    OF COURSE...
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    I don't like redundancies, and I hear how there may already be policies in place to handle human and civil rights violations. However, those obviously are not working because this administration's DHS continually is violating the human and civil rights of immigrants and others in this country and likely will continue to do so as supporters of this administration refuse to hold anybody accountable. If this bill is one way to try to hold these violators accountable, then I support it. Human and Civil rights cannot be violated with no repercussion, no matter who they're committed against.
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    No bad idea to do this.
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    I am not sure we need an overseer AND we definitely need something to change. Locking people in cages is A VIOLATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES! So whatever it takes it must be enacted. Living in a fascist country is prohibited by our Constitution. There are laws in place that are being ignored because they refuse to follow the laws of the constitution and the evil, racism, and every other phobia weak men and women live by are running rampant in our government. They must be removed. This government is turning into a police state for the weak.
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    QUIT WASTING OUR TIME AND MONEY ON THINGS THAT ARE ALREADY IN PLAY AND DO SOME REAL WORK FOR A CHANGE!!!
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