Federal immigration enforcement officers and border patrol agents should be required to wear body cameras while on duty, said a coalition of New York City lawmakers on Thursday.
City councilmembers Mark Levin and Carlos Menchaca introduced a resolution Thursday calling on Congress and President Donald Trump to back federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) that would mandate the use of body cameras for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers.
Levin, Menchaca, Espaillat and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, at a news conference on the steps of New York City Hall, said the cameras would provide greater accountability as the Trump administration ramps up its immigration enforcement efforts.
Espaillat’s bill has been referred to five separate congressional committees for review including the House Homeland Security Committee, but it has yet to come up for a vote in any of the committees which are all controlled by the GOP majority.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants increased 38 percent nationwide in Trump’s first 100 days, compared to the same period a year earlier under the administration of former President Barack Obama, according to ICE data released in May. The president has also said he would like to hire 5,000 more border patrol officers, and 10,000 more ICE agents to handle the stepped up enforcement.
Espaillat noted that an increasing number of law enforcement agencies across the country, including the NYPD, are turning to the cameras to document interactions between officers and civilians.
“It is critical that we establish procedures that protect immigrants,” said Espaillat who introduced the bill in March.
Espaillat, who was elected last November, said he discussed the body camera proposal with former Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in July, before Kelly stepped down to become Trump’s White House Chief of Staff. Espaillat said Kelly was supportive of the proposal.
“He was pretty clear in his support for the cameras,” said Espaillat, who represents portions of Harlem and Upper Manhattan. Espaillat said the discussion took place during a meeting between Kelly and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Homeland Security and White House officials did not return a request for comment on Kelly’s position and the body camera bill.
At the news conference, Levin said the cameras were needed to protect “the rights of a vulnerable population” amid a “more aggressive series of raids” on undocumented immigrants.
“Immigrants and their families deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of whether or not they are documented,” Levin said.
Menchaca said “some ICE agents are doing good work,” but said the cameras were needed to “set the highest standards for professionalism, transparency, and accountability when law enforcement interacts with vulnerable populations like immigrants and undocumented people.”