NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT RAISES CONCERNS WITH INTERNAL OPERATIONS AT DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

The Trump administration is often criticized for its anti-immigration policies.  Apparently another immigration issue about which the Trump administration can be questioned is how the government agencies that enforce immigration policy internally operate.  Specifically, a new inspector general report raises concerns with the internal operations at the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).

The inspector general report, titled, “Major Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security”, was issued on November 13.  The report states, “Based on our recent and prior audits, inspections, special reviews, and investigations, we consider the most serious management and performance challenges currently facing DHS to be: . . . Managing Programs and Operations Effectively and Efficiently during times of Changes in Leadership, Vacancies, and Hiring Difficulties; . . . Coordinating Efforts to Address the Sharp Increase in Migrants Seeking to Enter the United States through our Southern Border; . . . Ensuring Cybersecurity in an Age When Confidentiality, Integrity, and the Availability of Information Technology Are Essential to Mission Operations; . . . Ensuring Proper Financial Planning, Payments, and Internal Controls; and . . . Improving FEMA’s Disaster Response and Recovery Efforts”.

In terms of “Managing Programs and Operations Effectively and Efficiently During Times of Changes in Leadership, Vacancies, and Hiring Difficulties”, the report states, “Since its inception, DHS has had difficulties ensuring it can expeditiously hire and retain highly qualified workers.  This situation is exacerbated by changes and vacancies in senior leadership, which are often beyond DHS’ control. As of September 21, 2019, ‘acting’ officials filled almost one-third (18 of 58) of DHS senior leadership positions. . . . DHS faces high attrition. . . . [I]n November 2017, CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] awarded a $297 million contract to Accenture Federal Services (Accenture) as part of its effort to meet . . . hiring mandates.  However, CBP did not effectively manage the Accenture contract. . . . In February 2019, we reported Border Patrol lacked the data and procedures necessary to determine whether it was meeting workload requirements for investigative and law enforcement activities. . . . In November 2018, we reported, as the Department attempts to hire and train 15,000 law enforcement officers, it is already struggling to improve training venues and workaround scenarios to avoid degradation of training and ensure availability of preferred training venues and housing. . . . In June, 2019, we reported the Department lacked sufficient policies and procedures to address employee misconduct”.

In terms of “Coordinating Efforts to Address the Sharp Increase in Migrants Seeking to Enter the United States through Our Southern Border”, the report states, “In response to unprecedented migration at the U.S. Southern Border, . . . DHS is struggling to direct and deploy available resources to manage ports of entry, Border Patrol stations, and processing centers. . . . Increased migration also requires daily inter-component coordination, most notably among CBP, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) . . . During the past several years, but particularly in FY 2019, we have observed and continue to document serious gaps in communication, information sharing, and effective oversight in these internal and external partnerships. . . . We found dangerous overcrowding and adult detainees held longer than the 72 hours generally permitted under CBP’s Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS) standards at Border Patrol’s El Paso Del Norte Processing Center. . . . One month later, during the week of June 10, 2019, we traveled to the Rio Grande Valley Sector and again observed serious overcrowding and prolonged detention in Border Patrol facilities. . . . We reiterated our concern that overcrowding and prolonged detention pose an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained. . . . [W]e observed immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards at facilities . . . including nooses in detainee cells, overly restrictive segregation, inadequate medical care, unreported security incidents, and significant food safety issues . . . Internally, ICE’s challenges with staffing and technology also diminish the efficiency of the removal process.  ICE struggles with inadequate staffing, heavy caseloads, and frequent officer rotations, causing the quality of case management for detainees with final orders of removal to suffer”.

One issue in the inspector general report is generally consistent with a recent bipartisan letter from Senators Gary Peters (D. Michigan) and Ron Johnson (R. Wisconsin), stating, “This widespread use of temporary leadership . . . makes it more difficult for the Department [DHS] to achieve its long-term strategic objectives”.

The problems with the internal operations at the DHS described in the inspector general report are another issue that immigrants must confront as they seek immigration rights in the U.S. immigration system.  In this challenging environment for immigration rights, immigrants should obtain representation by skilled immigration lawyers, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has had years of experience and success in representing immigration clients.  If you need help with any immigration matter, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for support.