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Ports of Entry

  • CBP Has Taken Steps to Limit Processing of Undocumented Aliens at Ports of Entry

    Executive Summary

    In 2018, senior DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leaders issued public statements urging undocumented aliens seeking asylum to enter the United States legally at ports of entry, while also directing ports of entry to focus on other priority missions and institute practices to limit the number of undocumented aliens processed at ports of entry.  CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO) personnel at 24 Southwest Border ports of entry implemented a practice known as queue management, where an officer manned a “limit line” position at or near the U.S.-Mexico border to control the number of undocumented aliens entering the port.  We identified that seven of these ports stopped processing virtually all undocumented aliens, including asylum seekers, by redirecting them to other ports located miles away.  This redirection contravenes CBP’s longstanding practice to process all aliens at a “Class A” port of entry or reclassify the port of entry.  Additionally, CBP officers at four ports returned undocumented aliens to Mexico despite a legal requirement to process asylum claims of aliens that are physically present in the United States.  We made three recommendations aimed at bringing CBP’s practices in line with Federal law and regulations and promoting efficient processing of undocumented aliens.  CBP concurred with two of the recommendations and did not concur with one.  CBP defended its decision to redirect undocumented aliens at seven ports citing the availability of operational capacity and resources and the need to maintain a discretionary balance between mission requirements at each port.

    Report Number
    OIG-21-02
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Fiscal Year
    2021
  • Review of CBP's Major Cybersecurity Incident During a 2019 Biometric Pilot

    Executive Summary

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not adequately safeguard sensitive data on an unencrypted device used during its facial recognition technology pilot (known as the Vehicle Face System).  A subcontractor working on this effort, Perceptics, LLC, transferred copies of CBP’s biometric data, such as traveler images, to its own company network.  The subcontractor obtained access to this data without CBP’s authorization or knowledge, and compromised approximately 184,000 traveler images from CBP’s facial recognition pilot.  Later in 2019, the Department of Homeland Security experienced a major privacy incident, as the subcontractor’s network was subjected to a malicious cyber attack.  While CBP and DHS took immediate action to mitigate the data breach, we attribute this incident to the subcontractor violating numerous DHS security and privacy protocols for safeguarding sensitive data.  Consequently, this incident may damage the public’s trust in the Government’s ability to safeguard biometric data, and may result in travelers’ reluctance to permit DHS to capture and use their biometrics at U.S. ports of entry.  We made three recommendations to aid CBP in addressing the vulnerabilities that caused the 2019 data breach, and to better mitigate future incidents through greater oversight of third-party partners.  CBP concurred with all three recommendations.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-71
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Fiscal Year
    2020
  • Early Experiences with COVID-19 at Border Patrol Stations and OFO Ports of Entry

    Executive Summary

    We surveyed staff at Border Patrol stations and OFO ports of entry from April 22, 2020 to May 1, 2020.  The 136 Border Patrol stations and 307 OFO ports of entry that responded to our survey described various actions they have taken to prevent and mitigate the pandemic’s spread among travelers, detained individuals, and staff.  These actions include increased cleaning and disinfecting of common areas, and having personal protective equipment for staff, as well as supplies available to those individuals with whom they come into contact.  However, facilities reported concerns with their inability to practice social distancing and the risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to the close-contact nature of their work.  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 expressed concerns regarding staff availability, however, if there were an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility.  Overall, the majority of respondents reported that their facilities were prepared to address COVID-19.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-69
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    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
  • 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.

    Report Number
    OIG-20-35
    Issue Date
    Document File
    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
    Fiscal Year
    2020
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