Washington, D.C. — A new Center for American Progress report looks at the role that the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could have played in blunting some of the most egregious atrocities of the Trump administration, including the Muslim ban and the family separation policy.
The report, titled “Building Meaningful Civil Rights and Liberties Oversight at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” looks at the important mandate of CRCL to protect individual liberties and equal treatment under the law. The report finds that while the strength of CRCL has varied over its 16-year history, the Trump administration’s unprecedented challenges to individual rights and basic constitutional norms indicate that the time has come for Congress to pass legislation to protect its role in upholding civil liberties within the DHS.
“CRCL has historically played an important role in increasing transparency and responsiveness on issues such as surveillance, disability accommodation, language access, and the rights of detained immigrants,” says Scott Shuchart, senior fellow at CAP and author of the report. “The racist and xenophobic immigration policy of the Trump administration has exposed the legal limits of CRCL’s ability to fulfill its mission. It’s incumbent for Congress to act now to strengthen CRCL in order to mitigate the chance of another family separation crisis or Muslim ban.”
Shuchart lays out three broad areas for reform for CRCL:
- Authority: Congress should give CRCL clearer statutory authorities with regard to its investigations and policy recommendations, including subpoena power over third parties whose interactions with the DHS are alleged to violate civil rights and liberties.
- Independence: Congress should ensure that CRCL has independent legal counsel and sufficient operational independence within the DHS.
- Transparency: Congress must demand that CRCL be more transparent with people who file complaints with the office and ensure that it can make meaningful independent reports to Congress and the public
Click here to read the report: “Building Meaningful Civil Rights and Liberties Oversight at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security” by Scott Shuchart
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