House Passes Key Legislation Strengthening the Oversight and Transparency Authorities of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

House Passes Bill to Boost Civil Rights at Homeland Security” by Eric Katz, Government Executive, December 9, 2019

Late Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 4713, a bill strengthening the authority and independence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL). Although structural deficiencies have limited CRCL’s effectiveness since the office’s inception, only over the past several years have these deficiencies been so thoroughly exploited as a result of the current administration’s complete disregard for civil rights and civil liberties protections.

The bill incorporates key policy recommendations put forth by the Center for American Progress. For example, it gives CRCL increased authority to access all documents necessary to conduct investigations, including through the power of subpoena; allows CRCL to report directly to Congress without preapproval by the secretary of homeland security; and creates requirements that CRCL provide timely summaries of investigations to complainants. These measures will contribute to a higher level of accountability and transparency within DHS while promoting a culture of respect for civil rights and civil liberties across the agency.

Ensuring that DHS is subject to meaningful oversight, accountability, and transparency mechanisms will strengthen the agency’s ability to meet its security objectives while upholding the rule of law.

For more on how to reframe the immigration debate, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”