This report offers DHS OIG’s initial observations on the PACR and HARP programs based on our March 2020 visit to the El Paso, Texas area and analysis of data and information provided by CBP and USCIS headquarters. We determined that CBP rapidly implemented the pilot programs and expanded them without a full evaluation of the pilots’ effectiveness. Additionally, we determined there are potential challenges with the PACR and HARP programs related to how aliens are held and provided access to counsel and representation, and how CBP and USCIS assign staff to program duties and track aliens in the various agency systems. We made six recommendations to improve PACR and HARP program implementation. DHS did not concur with five of the six recommendations, stating that lawsuits and the COVID-19 pandemic had, in effect, ended the programs. We reviewed evidence provided by CBP and concluded the lawsuits themselves did not terminate the PACR and HARP pilot programs. Therefore, the recommendations remain open and unresolved. If the programs resume, we plan to resume actual or virtual site visits and issue a report detailing DHS’ full implementation of the PACR and HARP pilot programs.
Consistent with CDC guidance, most Office of Inspector General employees are currently serving the American people remotely. We are determined to keep interruptions to our operations to a minimum, and we appreciate your patience during this time.
Information and guidance about COVID-19 is available at coronavirus.gov.
- Executive SummaryReport NumberOIG-21-16Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2021
- 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 NumberOIG-21-02Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2021
- Executive Summary
DHS has not effectively managed and coordinated Department resources for its Joint Task Forces (JTFs). Specifically, DHS has not maintained oversight authority through changes in leadership, implemented and updated policies and procedures, identified optimal JTF staffing levels and resources, and established a process to capture total allocated costs associated with JTFs. In addition, DHS has not fully complied with public law requirements to report to Congress on JTFs’ cost and impact, establish outcome-based performance metrics, and establish and maintain a joint duty training program. We recommended the DHS Secretary designate a department-level office to manage and oversee JTFs and address public law requirements. We made seven recommendations to improve DHS’ management and oversight of its JTFs and ensure compliance with legislative requirements. DHS provided a management response, but declined to comment, since the Acting Secretary is currently reviewing the status and future of the JTFsReport NumberOIG-20-80Issue DateDocument FileFiscal Year2020
- Executive Summary
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cannot ensure its Entry Reconciliation Program reporting is accurate or complies with requirements. Specifically, CBP did not always validate importers’ self-reported final values of imports when it assessed duties and fees because it did not require importers to substantiate self-reported merchandise values with source documentation. In addition, CBP did not always follow its policies when conducting reviews of reconciliation entries because its Standard Operating Procedures had been implemented differently across all ports of entry. Finally, CBP missed opportunities to collect additional revenue when it did not assess monetary liquidated damages for importers that filed reconciliation entries late or not at all. This occurred because CBP’s controls were insufficient to ensure the ports properly assess liquidated damages for importers who file reconciliations late or not at all. CBP’s actions compromised the integrity of the Entry Reconciliation Program and, as such, may have put approximately $751 million of revenue, in the form of reconciliation refunds, at risk. We made four recommendations to improve the overall effectiveness of the program. CBP concurred with three of our four recommendations.Report NumberOIG-20-79Issue DateDocument FileFiscal Year2020
- Executive Summary
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) quickly deployed funding for consumables and medical services to address the needs of migrants in its custody along the southwest border, but did not adequately plan to ensure it used fiscal year 2019 funds effectively. Specifically, U.S. Border Patrol’s process did not adequately ensure taxpayer funds were used to purchase items required to meet migrants’ basic needs as Congress intended. Additionally, CBP relied on a single contracting officer’s representative, rather than onsite personnel, to oversee its medical contract because it did not include onsite monitoring when expanding the contract across multiple sectors. We made four recommendations to CBP to improve its consumables reimbursement process and medical contract oversight. CBP concurred with all four recommendations.Report NumberOIG-20-78Issue DateDocument FileFiscal Year2020
- 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 NumberOIG-20-71Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020
- 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 NumberOIG-20-69Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020
Five Laredo and San Antonio Area CBP Facilities Generally Complied with the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and SearchExecutive Summary
During our unannounced inspections of five U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in the Laredo and San Antonio areas of Texas in February 2020, three Border Patrol stations and two Office of Field Operation ports of entry we visited appeared to be operating in compliance with the Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS) standards we evaluated. We verified accessibility to water, food, toilets, sinks, basic hygiene supplies, and bedding. We observed clean facilities and verified that temperatures and ventilation in holding rooms were appropriate. Of the five facilities we visited, only one could provide on-site showers to detainees, but during our visits, no detainees were approaching the detention time threshold where a shower would be required. Because Border Patrol leadership directed all Border Patrol stations to implement Phase 2 of the enhanced medical screening ahead of the prescribed schedule outlined in CBP Directive 2100-004, the Border Patrol stations we visited were conducting alien intake health assessments using CBP Form 2500. These Ports of Entry had implemented Phase 1, but were not yet required to conduct Phase 2 assessments at the time of our inspection. We did not make any recommendations in this report.Report NumberOIG-20-67Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Compliance with Use of Force Policy for Incidents on November 25, 2018 and January 1, 2019 - Law Enforcement SensitiveExecutive Summary
We determined CBP’s use of tear gas on these dates, in response to physical threats, appeared to be within CBP’s use of force policy. However, U.S. Border Patrol obtained an acoustic device and used it in an “alert tone” mode on November 25, 2018, which did not conform to CBP’s Use of Force policy because Border Patrol did not get advance authorization to have a device with this capability. CBP’s Use of Force policy would have permitted use of the alert tone in a manner reasonable and necessary for self-defense or the defense of another person in threatening, emergent situations. However, the policy does not authorize the carrying of any weapon for duty use that is not authorized, included on the Authorized Equipment List, or specifically approved by the LESC director. Using the acoustic device in alert mode may increase the risk of temporary or permanent hearing loss to those exposed to the sound and thereby increase the Government’s liability. CBP’s own internal investigation of the November 25, 2018 incident regarding the acoustic device was incomplete and inaccurate and did not provide all the information CBP needed to determine whether the CBP officer and Border Patrol agents involved had complied with the use of force policy. In addition, not all Border Patrol agents had the required training and certification to carry less-lethal devices. This occurred because Border Patrol lacked internal controls to ensure agents had fulfilled these requirements. Border Patrol agents using less-lethal devices for which they are not certified could result in unintended serious injury or death, increasing the Government’s liability. We made four recommendations to CBP to ensure compliance with its Use of Force policy and improve its investigative process. CBP concurred with all four recommendations.Report NumberOIG-20-64Issue DateDocument FileFiscal Year2020
- Executive Summary
DHS components used inconsistent processes for administrative forfeitures under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA). Specifically, we found inconsistencies among DHS components regarding the forms used to notify property owners and the process for responding to claims. Further, CBP inappropriately used waivers to extend deadlines for responding to claims. We recommended DHS implement a department-wide structure to oversee component forfeiture activities across DHS by designating an office at headquarters for this role. Additionally, DHS should develop Department-wide policies and procedures, as well as review component policies, to ensure forfeiture processes and practices are consistent. We made two recommendations to improve oversight across DHS and provide consistent processes for handling administrative forfeitures. DHS concurred with recommendation two, which we consider resolved and open, but did not concur with recommendation one, which is unresolved and open.Report NumberOIG-20-66Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020