U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan tours a section of the U.S. – Mexico border wall along with senior Border Patrol officials during a visit to El Paso, Texas, August 26, 2020. (CBP Photo by Jerry Glaser)

OIG: CBP’s COVID-19 Concerns Include Inability to Social Distance and Staff Availability

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared novel coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) a pandemic on March 11, 2020, noting it was not just a public health crisis, but one that would affect every sector of society. DHS Office of Inspector General surveyed personnel at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities from April 22 to May 1, 2020, regarding their experiences and challenges managing COVID-19.

The 136 Border Patrol stations and 307 Office of Field Operations (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, should there be an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility.

Overall, the majority of respondents reported their facilities were prepared to address COVID-19. The observations contained in the report, which are primarily based on survey responses from facilities, provide an early perspective on CBP’s efforts during the pandemic. OIG’s intention is to inform agency decision makers as they consider additional actions to respond to the pandemic.

OIG made no recommendations. CBP’s response recapped various measures described in this report that Border Patrol agents and OFO have taken to “prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among travelers, persons in custody, and CBP staff.”

Read the OIG report

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