In March 2022, the Office of Inspector General conducted unannounced inspections of six U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in the Del Rio area of Texas, specifically five U.S. Border Patrol facilities and one Office of Field Operations (OFO) port of entry.
The inspections and subsequent analysis showed that Border Patrol held 1,164 detainees in custody in four facilities longer than specified in the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS), which generally limit detention in these facilities to 72 hours. Three of the four Border Patrol facilities that experienced prolonged detention times were also overcrowded. For example, Border Patrol’s Eagle Pass soft-sided facility had a maximum capacity of 500 detainees but was holding 1,007 detainees at the time of OIG’s visit, more than double its capacity.
Border Patrol encounters on the Southwest border have fluctuated each year. In FY 2019, DHS faced one of the largest surges of migrants crossing the Southwest border — until the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak caused a decline in FY 2020. In FY 2021, Southwest border encounters reached a new high of 1,659,206. This trend continues in FY 2022, with a 60 percent increase in migrant encounters in the first eight months over the same period in FY 2021. In FYs 2017 and 2018, the encounters in Del Rio made up four percent of the total Border Patrol encounters on the Southwest border, but in FY 2021, Del Rio encounters grew to 15 percent of the total, a fourfold increase.
The increased number of migrants in custody exacerbated staffing challenges for Border Patrol in Del Rio and made compliance with some TEDS standards difficult. In addition to prolonged detention and some overcrowded facilities, Border Patrol did not consistently provide showers and interpretation services.
However, OIG found that Border Patrol met standards related to management of personal property, prescription medications, and basic amenities. For example, it praised the Eagle Pass soft-sided facility’s handling of detainee property and has recommended that officials assess whether this facility’s supplemental guidance on the management of detainee property can be developed and implemented sector-wide, and implement where operationally feasible.
The watchdog also found data integrity issues at four of the five Border Patrol facilities it inspected. OIG said Border Patrol information in CBP’s electronic system of record, e3, related to the provision of supplies, showers, and meals to detainees was unreliable. A common data integrity issue that OIG found in activity logs was entries showing that showers were provided to detainees when they had not been. In some instances, inspectors found that agents were logging showers in activity logs but later explained that detainees were provided wet wipes in lieu of a shower. Two activity logs inaccurately recorded that detainees received two showers in one day and another detainee received three showers in one day, when neither had received a shower as agents explained they were not providing showers during that time due to staffing shortages. Additional examples of unreliable data that OIG found in Border Patrol activity logs included male detainees recorded as receiving feminine hygiene products and diapers, and meals and showers recorded as provided to detainees at early morning hours, along with entries stating that the migrants are sleeping.
The Del Rio OFO port of entry had no one in custody when OIG visited and met the TEDS standards that could be observed.
OIG has recommended that CBP refine current and identify new strategies and solutions to manage delays in detainee transfers to partner agencies and communicate these improvements throughout the sector. CBP concurred and gave examples of actions already taken to address this recommendation, including revising a memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Air Force, expanding ground transportation contracts, and activation of incident command systems.
OIG also recommended that the Del Rio Sector Chief oversee a data integrity review at Del Rio Border Patrol facilities for a sampling of detainee activity logs for one month, to verify that the information recorded is accurate. If the problem identified by inspectors persists, OIG advises that the sector implement a quality assurance plan and continue to monitor data integrity.