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Watchdog: CBP struggled to handle migrant surge at border

By Don Jacobson
Watchdog: CBP struggled to handle migrant surge at border
Authorities lead a group of migrants to a Border Patrol processing center after they crossed the Rio Grande into the United States in El Paso, Texas, on March 27, 2019. File Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI | License Photo

June 19 (UPI) -- Migrants detained at the U.S.-Mexico border during a surge of new arrivals last year were subjected to overcrowded conditions and substandard conditions, a government watchdog said in a report.

The 36-page analysis by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General said it performed unannounced inspections at more than a dozen Border Patrol stations and seven ports of entry in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas between April and June 2019 and found "serious overcrowding, prolonged detention and conditions falling short of [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] standards" at facilities that housed migrants.

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The time frame corresponded with the peak of an abrupt surge of Central American migrants, mainly families and children, seeking asylum in the United States. More than 132,000 immigrants were processed in May 2019 alone, the highest single-month total since 2005.

The inspector general's report said officials found overcrowding at all 14 CBP facilities it visited. At all but two, as many as 40 percent of migrants were held for longer than the 72 hours generally allowed under federal law and some had been held for longer than a month.

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However, the report acknowledged that CBP was hampered in meeting the 72-hour requirement by similar overcrowding and backlogs at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Health and Human Services, which are supposed to take custody of the migrants.

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Overcrowding also made it difficult for CBP to control contagious illnesses such as the flu and gastrointestinal viruses, the report said.

The study also acknowledged "dangerous" overcrowding at the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley ports of entry in Texas, which saw particularly intense waves of asylum-seekers last year.

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CBP did better at providing adequate medical care for migrants, the watchdog noted, and praised the agency for taking "extraordinary measures" to deploy health professionals and conduct medical screenings of all detainees.

Children of the Central American migrant caravan

Albert Yared stands near the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown San Diego on Saturday. Albert traveled with his parents in the migrant caravan from Honduras hoping to seek asylum in the U.S., crossing from Tijuana to San Diego on December 21. They spent their first night in CBP custody, but are now wearing ankle bracelets and headed to Mississippi where they hope to begin their new lives. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

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