Immigration advocates urge transparency now that border agents will use body cameras

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) –Immigration advocates who lobbied for border agents to be outfitted with body cameras hope the technology will be used properly and provide a tool for justice during investigations.

On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it will provide its agents with body-worn cameras, and that agents who work in the Southwestern United States are the first in line to get the devices.

“Our agents and officers serve the public and protect our borders every day with great skill and professionalism,” Troy Miller, the CBP acting commissioner said in a statement. “Providing them with state-of-the-art technology and tools like body-worn cameras will support their work and provide greater transparency into interactions between CBP officers and agents and the public.”

But migrant advocates are skeptical, saying there are too many unknowns.

“This is something we’ve been advocating for a long time. However, we don’t know what the policy entails and that’s the problem,” said Pedro Rios with the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, an advocacy group that pushes for humane immigration policies.

Not knowing how the agents and the agency will use the cameras and material recorded, worries Rios.

“Is it only for show and not necessarily to hold the agents accountable for their actions?” said Rios. “At what point would Border Patrol agents be obligated to turn them on, could they have absolute control to turn them off when there’s an incident, and how much of the footage would be used for investigations?”

Rios also worries the public may never have access to incidents recorded by the cameras.

“We don’t know whether it would be made available to the public,” he said.

CBP says the cameras are going to be a benefit to the agents and the public, adding that the move is to “better enhance its policing practices and reinforce trust and transparency.”

CBP hopes to outfit 6,000 agents with body-worn cameras by the end of the year.

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