Nearly a third of illegal immigrants released during the early months of the Biden migrant surge last year failed to show up for required check-ins, according to a new inspector general’s report that said Homeland Security is having a tough time tracking all the people it’s setting free.
Officials blamed the sheer crush of people rushing the border, saying they were sacrificing record-keeping accuracy for the sake of speed in processing people.
The dangers of that approach, though, are that officials can cut corners in cases of vulnerable migrants, such as children.
The inspector general said border authorities didn’t always record the names of family members who were accompanying children, making reunification more difficult later on.
It’s the same problem that plagued the Trump administration in 2019, when the “zero tolerance” border policy led to thousands of children being separated and unable to be reunited with parents.
Despite the passage of two years and promises of improvements, the inspector general found the government still lacks a dedicated system to track the children’s movements from Homeland Security to the Health and Human Services Department, forcing officials to rely on emails.
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“This was a daunting task, considering more than 125,000 unaccompanied migrant children were transferred to HHS in FY 2021,” the audit found. “Two DHS officials in the field responsible for transferring unaccompanied children stated they received upwards of 500 to 600 emails daily. Other officials noted receiving more than 50 emails per day — all to facilitate transfers.”
The administration insisted — and the audit agreed — that things have improved, with better record-keeping.
“DHS remains committed to improving the effectiveness of information technology systems used to track migrants from apprehension to release or transfer,” Jim H. Crumpacker, the department’s liaison to the inspector general, said in an official response to the new report.
Still, the report was a devastating look at the Biden administration’s early struggles with the border.
More than 1.6 million migrants were nabbed illegally crossing the border in fiscal year 2021 — a 314% increase over 2020 — amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Legal crossers were supposed to prove they had been vaccinated or had negative tests in order to enter, but illegal crossers sometimes made it through without any testing, the audit found. That’s because the Border Patrol didn’t typically test for COVID, but instead screened for symptoms.
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“DHS does not require COVID testing, even prior to release into the United States,” the audit found.
The report also challenges Homeland Security’s contentions that migrants are following through on the conditions of their release.
The inspector general looked at nearly 112,000 migrants who were released between March and September 2021 under Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s directive to exercise prosecutorial discretion. More than 32,000 of them — 29% — failed to show up for their first check-in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement within 60 days.
At the beginning of that period, the department often wasn’t recording addresses where migrants said they would go once they were released.
By late last year, 99% of released migrants did have addresses attached to their files — though the inspector general said the information was riddled with errors, such as migrants giving incomplete addresses or giving locations that duplicated other migrants.
Analysts have told The Washington Times that’s an indication of fraud.
The inspector general’s office said it plans a follow-up assessment of the addresses migrants are listing.