In May 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted unannounced inspections of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas, specifically six U.S. Border Patrol facilities and three Office of Field Operations (OFO) ports of entry (POEs).
These inspections and subsequent analysis showed Border Patrol held 1,736 detainees in custody in five facilities longer than specified in the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS), which generally limits detention in these facilities to 72 hours. Detainees whose time in custody exceeded the 72-hour TEDS limit included unaccompanied children (UCs), which are considered an at-risk population. OIG found that increased migrant encounters was a contributing factor to time in custody, and exacerbated Border Patrol staffing challenges in the Rio Grande Valley.
The watchdog also found data integrity issues with Border Patrol’s electronic system of record at three of the six facilities it inspected. Inspectors reviewed a sample of 46 custody logs for detainees held by Border Patrol during the inspection and found 20 contained unreliable data related to amenities provided and welfare checks. OIG found custody logs for seven detainees had entries for multiple showers on the same day within hours, and nine male UCs had entries noting they received feminine hygiene products.
In addition, Border Patrol agents at local stations and at the sector level could not identify policies and procedures for managing and releasing detainees with contagious diseases. Border Patrol did however meet standards related to providing basic amenities such as food, water, blankets, mats, and prescription medications and separating an at-risk detainee.
The Hidalgo, Brownsville, and Rio Grande City OFO POEs had no one in custody when OIG visited and met the TEDS standards that could be observed.
OIG made three recommendations as a result of the unannounced inspections:
- Refine current, and identify new strategies and solutions to manage delays in detainee transfers to partner agencies and communicate those improvements throughout the Rio Grande Valley sector.
- Oversee a data integrity review at Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol facilities for a sampling (from at least one month of data) of detainee custody logs to verify that the information recorded is accurate and implement quality assurance mechanisms to monitor data integrity.
- Ensure that current guidance and operational procedures for managing detainees with confirmed or suspected contagious diseases are communicated to agents across the Border Patrol.
CBP agreed with the recommendations and set out plans to meet them, including developing documents and communicating specific practices for infectious diseases commonly seen in individuals in Border Patrol custody.