September 10, 2021

What You Should Know About the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL)

Have you ever had an interaction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), during which you believe your civil rights and civil liberties were infringed? Did you know that you can file a formal complaint with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL)?

The CRCL supports DHS by ensuring civil rights and liberties are respected in policy development and implementation, educating the public about policies and methods of remedy if their civil rights and liberties have been affected by DHS activities, and investigating civil rights and liberties complaints filed by the public about DHS policies or actions. 

Under 6 U.S.C. 345 and 42 U.S.C. 2000ee-1, CRCL investigates civil rights and civil liberties complaints made by the public about DHS policies and activities, including allegations of:

  • Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability;
  • Violation of rights while in immigration detention or as a subject of immigration enforcement;
  • Discrimination or inappropriate questioning related to entry into the U.S.;
  • Violation of due process rights, such as the right to timely notice of charges or access to lawyer;
  • Violation of confidentiality provisions of the Violence Against Women Act;
  • Physical abuse or any other type of abuse;
  • Denial of meaningful access to DHS or DHS-supported programs, activities, or services due to limited English proficiency, and
  • Any other civil rights, civil liberties, or human rights violation related to a DHS program or activity, including allegations of discrimination by an organization or program that receives financial assistance from DHS.

To file a complaint, download the fillable pdf complaint form available on CRCL’s site and email, fax, or mail the completed form back to CRCL. Electronic submission via email is the fastest way to reach CRCL. Complaints are accepted in (but not limited to): English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. The complaint form is optional; detailed written descriptions of the event(s) can be submitted via email, fax, phone, or mail. However, complaints that are submitted without using the fillable form can take longer time to process and require more follow ups.

Complaints filed with CRCL are first submitted to the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) since the OIG has the right of first refusal to investigate allegations. If the OIG declines to investigate, CRCL may open an investigation. Based on the results of complaint investigations, CRCL issues recommendations to DHS addressing issues of concern and improvements to DHS’s civil rights and liberties protections. 

The CRCL plans to revise its complaint form so it issued a 30-day notice and request for comments on its proposed form called “DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaint and Privacy Waiver Form.”  To submit a comment for on this form, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/08/23/2021-17959/agency-information-collection-activities-dhs-civil-rights-and-civil-liberties-complaint-and-privacy

Comments and recommendations will be accepted until September 22, 2021.

This article is provided as an educational service and is not legal advice. Consult with an attorney for your specific circumstances.  For a comprehensive evaluation of your immigration situation and options, you are invited to call us at 214-494-8033, text us using our chat box, or complete our contact form.