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CBP Separated More Asylum-Seeking Families at Ports of Entry Than Reported and For Reasons Other Than Those Outlined in Public Statements

Executive Summary

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field operations (OFO) personnel at ports of entry had separated 60 asylum-seeking families between May 6 and July 9, 2018, despite CBP’s claim that it had separated only 7 such families.  More than half of those separations were based solely on the asylum-seeking parents’ prior non-violent immigration violations, which appeared to be inconsistent with official DHS public messaging.  After a June 27, 2018 court ruling, CBP issued specific guidance, and the ports separated fewer families in the prior months.  Despite the new guidance, we continue to have concerns about DHS’ ability to accurately identify and address all family separations due to data reliability issues.  In late June 2018, CBP modified its system for tracking aliens at the ports of entry to capture family separation data consistently, but it could not provide a reliable number of families separated before June 2018.  We made one recommendation that will help CBP’s data collection.  CBP concurred with our recommendation.

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