Policy Letter

POGO Calls for Congressional Investigation and Oversight of “Zero Tolerance” and Border Crisis

The Honorable Chuck Grassley
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6275

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member
U. S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
152 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6275

Re: Need for Oversight and Investigation on Border Crisis

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:

The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security’s recent experiment with “zero tolerance” prosecution of immigrants, resulting in the separation of children from their parents, has highlighted a host of ongoing failures in our nation's practices and policies for apprehending, detaining, processing, and removing immigrants. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) writes to encourage you to begin a long-overdue investigation relating to the crisis of immigration enforcement and detention along our nation’s southwest border.

We understand that many members of the Committee continue to work on specific policy prescriptions to reform our nation’s immigration system.1 But equally important is the Committee’s role in conducting oversight of the executive branch. DOJ and DHS operated a pilot version of the “zero tolerance” program for months before implementing it across the country.2 Federal judges raised doubts about the legality of the program, but rather than address their concerns, the government expanded the program without any effective system for reuniting families after separation. A host of problems soon followed.

The concerns we set forth below are very clearly covered by the Committee’s jurisdiction, as many of them emanate from the Department of Justice’s policies. Indeed, the intersection of so many of the matters of clear jurisdiction of the Committee underscores that no other entity is better positioned to ask pressing questions and get answers.

We have a long history of productively working together with your offices to strengthen and support Congressional oversight. We believe your leadership is critical to ensure that the Justice Department acts in accordance with our Constitution and the rule of law. We will follow up with your offices and hope to meet with you and your staff to discuss these concerns. You may reach Sarah Turberville, Director of The Constitution Project at POGO, at [email protected], and Katherine Hawkins, Investigator at POGO, at [email protected], for any questions or concerns. Thank you for your attention to this most important matter.


Danielle Brian
Executive Director

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