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.
- Executive SummaryReport NumberOIG-20-35Issue DateDocument FileDHS AgencyOversight AreaFiscal Year2020
- 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 NumberOIG-20-06Issue DateDocument FileDHS AgencyOversight AreaKeywordsFiscal Year2020