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.
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- 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
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
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
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
CBP Needs a Comprehensive Process for Conducting Covert Testing and Resolving Vulnerabilities - (REDACTED)Executive Summary
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not comprehensively plan and conduct its covert testing, use test results to address vulnerability, or widely share lessons learned. CBP’s two covert testing groups do not use risk assessments or intelligence to plan and conduct covert tests at ports of entry and U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints, do not plan coordinated tests, and do not design system-wide tests. This occurred because CBP has not provided adequate guidance on risk- and intelligence-based test planning, directed the groups to coordinate, given them the required authority, or established performance goals and measures for covert testing. Following testing, CBP does not widely share covert test results, consistently make recommendations, or ensure corrective actions are taken. Results are not widely shared because CBP has not defined roles and responsibilities for such sharing. Covert testing groups do not make recommendations or ensure corrective actions are implemented due to insufficient authority and policies directing these actions. Finally, CBP does not effectively manage covert testing groups to ensure data reliability, completeness, and compliance with security requirements due to leadership changes and limited staff. Without comprehensive planning, incorporating lessons learned from test results, and program management accountability, CBP cannot ensure it addresses vulnerabilities, which may be exploited and threaten national security. We recommended CBP develop policies and procedures for conducting covert testing and assign roles and responsibilities for oversight of covert testing groups. We made seven recommendations that will strengthen its covert testing program. CBP concurred with all seven recommendations.Report NumberOIG-20-55Issue DateDocument FileFiscal Year2020
- Executive Summary
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not demonstrated the acquisition capabilities needed to effectively execute the Analyze/Select Phase of the Wall Acquisition Program. Specifically, CBP did not conduct an Analysis of Alternatives to assess and select the most effective, appropriate, and affordable solutions to obtain operational control of the southern border as directed, but instead relied on prior, outdated border solutions to identify materiel alternatives for meeting its mission requirement. CBP did not use a sound, well-documented methodology to identify and prioritize investments in areas along the border that would best benefit from physical barriers. Additionally, the Department did not complete the required plan to execute the strategy to obtain and maintain control of the southern border, as required by its Comprehensive Southern Border Security Study and Strategy. Without an Analysis of Alternatives, a documented and reliable prioritization process, or a plan, the likelihood that CBP will be able to obtain and maintain complete operational control of the southern border with mission-effective, appropriate, and affordable solutions is diminished. We made three recommendations to improve CBP’s ongoing investments for obtaining operational control of the southern border. DHS concurred with recommendation 2 but did not concur with recommendations 1 and 3.Report NumberOIG-20-52Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020
- 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 NumberOIG-20-42Issue DateDocument FileDHS AgencyFiscal Year2020
- 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 NumberOIG-20-38Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020
DHS Should Seek a Unified Approach when Purchasing and Using Handheld Chemical Identification DevicesExecutive 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 NumberOIG-20-16Issue DateDocument FileKeywordsFiscal Year2020