Under the Federal Records Act, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) should deny the US Customs and Border Patrol’s proposal to destroy complaints on civil rights violations. The agency seeks to destroy records that monitor complaints with pending or ongoing investigations by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, including cases that pertain to administrative and criminal investigations, and Prison Rape Elimination Act allegations. To date, NARA has recommended approving the CBP schedule in full. NARA’s approval is concerning since CBP has been under fire for avoiding all measures of accountability, which the destruction of these records would exacerbate.
CREW is part of a coalition of civil rights groups urging NARA to reject this schedule based on CBP’s disturbing record of abuse and misconduct, as well as a deep-rooted culture of impunity. Compounding the problem, accountability mechanisms have utterly failed to keep pace with CBP’s rapid expansion and massive workforce. Indeed, a volume of evidence shows that CBP’s current accountability mechanisms have not, in fact, held it accountable for abuse and misconduct. The accountability mechanisms are also shrouded in secrecy. Though a Cato Institute study found strong evidence of CBP’s misconduct and disciplinary infractions from 2006 to 2016, it was “virtually impossible to assess the extent of corruption or misconduct in U.S. Customs and Border Protection…because most publicly available information [was] incomplete or inconsistent.”
Data obtained by the American Immigration Council in 2017 revealed that the agency took “no action” in 95.9 percent of complaints made against agents—including verbal abuse, theft of property, and physical assault—over a three year-period. The lack of accountability for agency abuses is largely due to CBP’s failed disciplinary system. Destroying records that could be evidence of misconduct will surely not bring this agency closer to accountability, and NARA should deny their request immediately.