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Border Security

  • Early Experiences with COVID-19 at ICE Detention Facilities

    Executive Summary

    We surveyed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities from April 8-20, 2020 regarding their experiences and challenges managing COVID-19 among detainees in their custody and among their staff.  The facilities that responded to our survey described various actions they have taken to prevent and mitigate the pandemic’s spread among detainees.  These actions include increased cleaning and disinfecting of common areas, and isolating new detainees, when possible, as a precautionary measure.  However, facilities reported concerns with their inability to practice social distancing among detainees, and to isolate or quarantine individuals who may be infected with COVID-19.  Regarding staffing, facilities reported decreases in current staff availability due to COVID-19, but have contingency plans in place to ensure continued operations.  The facilities also expressed concerns with the availability of staff, as well as protective equipment for staff, if there were an outbreak of COVID-19 in the facility.  Overall, almost all facilities stated they were prepared to address COVID-19, but expressed concerns if the pandemic continued to spread.  At the time of our survey, 23 facilities reported having detainees who had tested positive for COVID-19; this number had risen to 48 facilities as of May 11, 2020.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-42
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
    Fiscal Year
    2020
  • Capping Report: CBP Struggled to Provide Adequate Detention Conditions During 2019 Migrant Surge

    Executive Summary

    During 2019, there was a surge in Southwest Border crossings between ports of entry, resulting in 851,508 Border Patrol apprehensions and contributing to what senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials described as an “unprecedented border security and humanitarian crisis.”  Our unannounced inspections revealed that, under these challenging circumstances, CBP struggled to meet detention standards.  Specifically, several Border Patrol stations we visited exceeded their maximum capacity.  Although Border Patrol established temporary holding facilities to alleviate overcrowding, it struggled to limit detention to the 72 hours generally permitted, as options for transferring detainees out of CBP custody to long-term facilities were limited.  Also, even after deploying medical professionals to more efficiently provide access to medical care, overcrowding made it difficult for the Border Patrol to manage contagious illnesses.  Finally, in some locations, Border Patrol did not meet certain standards for detainee care, such as offering children access to telephone calls and safeguarding detainee property.  In contrast to Border Patrol, which could not control apprehensions, CBP’s ports of entry could limit detainee access, and generally met applicable detention standards.  Supplementing a May 2019 Management Alert recommendation, we made two additional recommendations regarding access of unaccompanied alien children to telephones and proper handling of detainee property.  CBP concurred with the recommendations.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-38
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
    Fiscal Year
    2020
  • DHS Should Seek a Unified Approach when Purchasing and Using Handheld Chemical Identification Devices

    Executive Summary

    DHS does not have a unified approach for procuring and using handheld chemical identification devices despite the widespread use of these devices across multiple components.  We recommended DHS establish a process to coordinate joint needs across components and maximize savings from strategic sourcing opportunities.  We made two recommendations that should help improve unity of effort in procuring and using handheld chemical identification devices.  DHS concurred with recommendation 1 but did not concur with recommendation 2.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-16
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
    Fiscal Year
    2020
  • DHS OIG Completes Investigation of the Death of Seven-Year-Old Guatemalan Child

    For Information Contact

    Public Affairs (202) 254-4100

    For Immediate Release

    Download PDF (158.54 KB)

    The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently completed an investigation into the death of a Guatemalan child who died in U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) custody.  

    The investigation found no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel:

    •    On December 6, 2018, a 7-year-old child and her father were apprehended in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.  
    •    On December 7, 2018, during transport from Antelope Wells to another USBP facility 90 miles away in Lordsburg, New Mexico, the child’s father reported that she was ill with a fever and vomiting.  The child also started having seizures.  
    •    When the child arrived at the USBP station in Lordsburg, USBP Emergency Medical Technicians initiated medical care and flew the child to the hospital by commercial air ambulance.  
    •    USBP personnel drove the father to the hospital.
    •    The child was pronounced dead at the hospital the next day. 
    •    OIG conducted a detailed investigation and coordinated with the local medical examiner’s office.  
    •    The state medical examiner’s autopsy report found the child died of natural causes due to sequelae of Streptococcal sepsis.

    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
  • Lack of Internal Controls Could Affect the Validity of CBP’s Drawback Claims

    Executive Summary

    Between 2011 and 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processed an average of $896 million in drawback claims annually; however, a lack of internal controls could affect the validity and accuracy of the drawback claims amount.  This occurred, in part, because CBP did not address internal control deficiencies over drawback claims.  The Department of Homeland Security Fiscal Year 2018 Independent Auditor’s Report on Financial Statements and Internal Control over Financial Reporting identified reoccurring CBP internal control deficiencies over drawback claims.  CBP has outlined plans to correct these deficiencies by implementing an updated data processing system and revising legislative procedures.  Without correcting these repeated control deficiencies, CBP cannot determine drawback claims’ validity and accuracy.  These corrective actions are ongoing; therefore, we could not verify during our audit whether CBP remedied the identified internal control deficiencies. Our report contains no recommendations.  

    Report Number
    OIG-20-07
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
    Fiscal Year
    2020
  • DHS Lacked Technology Needed to Successfully Account for Separated Migrant Families

    Executive Summary

    DHS did not have the Information Technology (IT) system functionality needed to track separated migrant families during the execution of Zero Tolerance.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) adopted various ad hoc methods to record and track family separations, but this practice introduced widespread errors.  These conditions persisted because CBP did not address known IT deficiencies before the Zero Tolerance Policy was implemented in May 2018.  DHS also did not provide adequate guidance to personnel responsible for executing the policy.  Because of the IT deficiencies, we could not confirm the total number of families DHS separated during the Zero Tolerance period.  DHS estimated Border Patrol agents separated 3,014 children from their families while the policy was in place.  DHS also estimated it completed 2,155 reunifications, although this effort continued on for seven months beyond the July 2018 deadline for reunifying children with their parents.  However, we conducted a review of DHS data during the Zero Tolerance period and identified 136 children with potential family relationships that were not accurately recorded by CBP.  In a broader analysis of DHS data between the dates of October 1, 2017 to February 14, 2019, we identified an additional 1,233 children with potential family relationships not accurately recorded by CBP.  Without a reliable accounting of all family relationships, we could not validate the total number of separations, or the completion of reunifications.  Although DHS spent thousands of hours and more than $1 million in overtime costs, it did not achieve the original goal of deterring “Catch-and-Release” through the Zero Tolerance Policy.  Moreover, the surge in apprehended families during this time period resulted in children being held in CBP facilities beyond the 72-hour legal limit.  The Department concurred with all five report recommendations.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-06
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
    Fiscal Year
    2020
  • DOJ and DHS OIGs Release a Joint Review of Law Enforcement Cooperation on the Southwest Border between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations

    For Information Contact

    DOJ OIG: John Lavinsky, (202) 514-3435

    DHS OIG: Erica Paulson, (202) 981-6000

    For Immediate Release

    Download PDF (103.34 KB)

    Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz and Department Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari announced today the release of a joint review examining law enforcement cooperation on the Southwest border between DOJ’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  The FBI and HSI share many of the same statutory authorities to investigate certain crimes, underscoring the need for agents to share information and manage investigative overlap effectively.

    The Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) found that the majority (63%) of FBI and HSI Southwest border agents did not encounter cooperation failures, and agents reported that task forces improved cooperation and allowed for increased collaboration between the FBI and HSI.  However, of the 37% of agents who did experience cooperation failures, 87% reported at least one negative impact as a result, such as loss of trust, unnecessarily prolonged investigations, and failure to gather evidence or apprehend a target. 
    The report identified several factors that may have contributed to these cooperation failures, including:

    • The FBI and HSI had inconsistent practices, lacked specific policies, and many agents were unaware of requirements related to deconfliction. In February 2019, ICE issued an agency-specific deconfliction policy that may result in improvements.

    • Many agents did not understand the other agency’s mission and authorities and did not trust the other agency or its personnel. 

    • DOJ and DHS do not have a memorandum of understanding related to cooperation on the Southwest border. 
    The DOJ OIG and DHS OIG made five recommendations to the FBI and HSI to address these cooperation challenges.  The FBI agreed with all five recommendations.  HSI agreed with three of the recommendations and did not concur with two of them.
    Today’s report is available:

    • On the DOJ OIG website: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2019/e1903.pdf

    • On the DHS OIG website: https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2019-08/OIG-19-57-Jul19.pdf

    • On Oversight.gov: https://www.oversight.gov/report/doj/joint-review-law-enforcement-cooperation-southwest-border-between-federal-bureau

    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
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