A bill that would make the U.S. Customs and Border Protection an official part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was approved by the House of Representatives this week.
Currently, CBP is a federal agency, but it was never formally authorized into law. The United States Customs and Border Protection Authorization Act would authorize border, maritime, and transportation security responsibilities and functions in DHS.
The bipartisan bill was introduced by Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Candice Miller (R-MI) and co-sponsored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).
When presenting the bill in May, Rep. Miller said, if passed, the bill would improve the accountability, transparency and overall function of the DHS. Without formal authorization CBP has been operating without statutory mandates from Congress or the American public.
In the last year, CBP has found itself in the center of multiple controversies.
In a report submitted to the White House last October, the federal Office of Special Counsel estimates misuse of overtime pay in six DHS offices, including CBP, cost taxpayers $8.7 million a year.
One whistleblower told E.W. Scripps Company reporters his attempts to address the problem 30 years ago went unanswered.
In early March, the border patrol announced new rules for agents in the field, reiterating how the agents should respond to fleeing vehicles and threats of violence. The directive from Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher limits agents from shooting at moving vehicles or people throwing rocks at the them.
A recent independent review of border patrol shootings criticized the agency for “lack of diligence” in investigations. The review looked at 67 shooting incidents, resulting in at least 19 deaths, along the U.S. borders from 2010 to 2012.
CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement agencies with more than 60,000 employees.
“It is critical that Congress provide greater transparency, accountability and oversight to CBP on a routine basis,” Congressman McCaul said in a press release.
This bill passed in the House Monday by voice vote and now moves to the Senate for consideration. It amends the Homeland Security of Act of 2002 which created DHS and brought 22 other federal agencies together.
According to the website Govtrack.us, the bill has a 37% chance of being enacted.
Follow Lynn Walsh on Twitter @LWalsh.