Federal immigration agents should be required to wear body cameras during field operations to increase transparency in how arrests are made, a coalition of New York City lawmakers said on Thursday.
Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine and Brooklyn Councilman Carlos Menchaca introduced a resolution Thursday calling on Congress and President Donald Trump to pass legislation sponsored by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) that would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents to wear body cameras “during field operations and removal proceedings.”
The cameras would provide greater accountability as the Trump administration ramps up its immigration enforcement efforts, Levin, Menchaca, Espaillat and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said at a news conference on the steps of City Hall.
After taking office, Trump changed the Obama-era rules that required ICE agents to only focus on immigrants who have committed serious crimes. The number of arrests of those living here illegally rose 38 percent during Trump’s first 100 days, compared with the same time period in 2016, according to ICE data released in May.
Levin and Menchaca are primarily concerned about reports of alleged force being used during arrests and agents targeting nonviolent immigrants for deportation.
“This is about protecting the rights of a vulnerable population,” Levine said. “Immigrants and their families deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of whether or not they are documented.”
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.
“It is critical that we establish procedures that protect immigrants,” said Espaillat, who introduced the bill in March.
Espaillat 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. Kelly was supportive of the proposal, Espaillat said.
“He was pretty clear in his support for the cameras,” said Espaillat, who represents portions of Harlem and upper Manhattan. The discussion took place during a meeting between Kelly and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he said.
Department of Homeland Security and White House officials did not immediately return requests for comment on Kelly’s position.
While Menchaca said “some ICE agents are doing good work,” he also believes the cameras are needed to “set the highest standards for professionalism, transparency, and accountability when law enforcement interacts with vulnerable populations like immigrants and undocumented people.”
The use of body cameras has risen across the country in recent years as law enforcement agencies work to increase transparency. In New York, the NYPD launched a pilot program in April that is expected to lead to all officers wearing cameras.