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DHS OIG, Oct. 27, 2020
"In May 2018, DHS and CBP leaders anticipated an increase in undocumented aliens seeking entry at the southern border. In response, the leaders urged undocumented aliens seeking protection under U.S. asylum laws (“asylum seekers”) to enter the United States legally at ports of entry rather than illegally between ports. At the same time, the leaders asked CBP for “the number of [undocumented aliens] that would likely be turned away” if all ports conducted “Queue Management,” a practice that posts CBP officers at or near the U.S.-Mexico border to control the number of undocumented aliens entering U.S. ports of entry. After learning that 650 aliens would be prevented from entering ports every day, in June 2018, then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen authorized the practice. Nielsen also informed CBP ports that while processing undocumented aliens is a component of its mission, they should focus on other priorities, including detection and apprehension of narcotics and currency smugglers.
We found CBP took several additional actions to limit the number of undocumented aliens processed each day at Southwest Border land ports of entry. For instance, without prior public notice, seven ports of entry stopped processing virtually all undocumented aliens, including asylum seekers. Instead, CBP redirected them to other port locations. This redirection contravenes CBP’s longstanding practice to process all aliens at a “Class A” port of entry or reclassify the port of entry. Moreover, although asylum seekers legally must be processed once physically within the United States, we found CBP staff turned away asylum seekers at four ports after they had already entered the United States. After waiting in Queue Management lines or being redirected to other ports, some asylum seekers and other undocumented aliens crossed the border illegally between ports of entry."