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Friday, December 9, 2022
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OIG: Border Patrol Prevented Serious Criminals from Entering the U.S. But Could Strengthen Processes

OIG said Border Patrol’s informal and expedited practices for processing migrants could jeopardize the ability to track migrants released into the United States and ensure migrants appear for immigration proceedings.

The U.S. Border Patrol within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) followed its screening procedures to prevent migrants with serious criminal backgrounds or individuals on the terrorist watch list from entering the United States, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found. 

OIG determined that Border Patrol agents conducted required record checks on the migrants from the watchdog’s sample that they released into the country. 

However, OIG said that Border Patrol did not always assign alien registration numbers (A-numbers), which is necessary to create alien files. These files provide a complete history of a migrant’s immigration encounters. OIG found that Border Patrol did not issue A-numbers for 107 of 384 migrants, most of whom were paroled into the country or issued Notices to Report. According to OIG’s findings, agents did not always assign A-numbers because they were trying to expedite processing and move migrants out of Border Patrol facilities that were over capacity. 

Additionally, Border Patrol did not always maintain migrants’ alien files. During OIG’s audit, Border Patrol and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could not provide 80 of the requested 384 migrant files because they were either lost, disposed of, or in transit. Border Patrol had disposed of the files because they did not have A-numbers and were unaware of record retention requirements. 

OIG said these shortcomings occurred because CBP has not issued a formal policy detailing how to expedite the processing of migrants as apprehension numbers continue to rise. 

As Border Patrol continues to process large numbers of migrants at the Southwest Border, conducting and evaluating the results of record checks is imperative to ensure migrants with aggravated criminal histories, gang or drug cartel affiliations, or terrorist watch list records are not permitted to be released into the United States. Further, OIG said Border Patrol’s informal and expedited practices for processing migrants could jeopardize the ability to track migrants released into the United States and ensure migrants appear for immigration proceedings.

The watchdog has recommended that the Chief of Border Patrol develop and implement a comprehensive policy for use of different pathways for expedited processing during times of increased apprehension activity. The policy should require the issuing of A-numbers for all migrants released into the United States to ensure DHS and other Federal agencies can track migrants throughout the immigration process; and ensure that processing pathways comply with existing law and policy. 

Border Patrol agreed with OIG’s recommendation and said it has already issued email guidance and a policy memorandum for processing pathway guidance. Additionally, Border Patrol is coordinating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to improve the use of electronic A-Files, allowing for a more seamless transition of the files among Border Patrol, ICE, and USCIS.

Read the full report at OIG

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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