Southwest Border: Actions Needed to Improve DHS Processing of Families and Coordination between DHS and HHS: Report to Congressional Requesters.
United States. Government Accountability Office.
Federal Publication/Policy Technical Report
Published: February 2020
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
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This report presents the findings of a study that examined U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data on apprehended family unit members; the extent to which CBP and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) developed and implemented policies and procedures for processing family units; and how DHS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) share information about unaccompanied alien children (UAC). For the study, the Government Accountability Organization (GAO) analyzed record-level DHS and HHS data and documents; interviewed DHS and HHS officials; and visited DHS locations in California and Texas where CBP apprehensions of family units increased in 2017. Findings indicate apprehensions of family unit members grew from about 22% of total southwest border apprehensions in fiscal year 2016 to about 51% of such apprehensions during the first two quarters of fiscal year 2019; from April 2018 through March 2019, CBP data indicate it separated at least 2,700 children from their parents, processing them as UAC and transferring them to HHS; CBP developed some policies and procedures for processing family units but does not have sufficient controls to ensure effective implementation; Border Patrol agents have not accurately and consistently recorded family units and separations; ICE relies on a manual process to track separations that occur in ICE custody and does not systematically record this information in its data system; and despite interagency agreements, DHS and HHS officials stated they have not resolved long-standing differences on information sharing. GAO is making eight recommendations to DHS and one to HHS, including: CBP should develop and implement additional controls to ensure that Border Patrol agents accurately record family unit separations in data systems; ICE should systematically track in its data system the family units ICE separates; and DHS and HHS should collaborate about information sharing for UAC. DHS and HHS concurred with the recommendations. 8 figures and 98 references.
data collection; guidelines; separation; parent child relationships; Deportation; documentation; immigrants; undocumented immigrants; records; families; guidelines; information technology; INFORMATION SYSTEMS; MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS; DATABASES