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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bad Conditions at the Border

From the Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, Management Alert – DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley 
During our visits to five Border Patrol facilities and two ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley,2 we reviewed compliance with CBP’s Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS) standards, which govern CBP’s interaction with detained individuals,3 and observed serious overcrowding and prolonged detention of unaccompanied alien children (UACs), families, and single adults that require immediate attention. Specifically, Border Patrol was holding about 8,000 detainees in custody at the time of our visit, with 3,400 held longer than the 72 hours generally permitted under the TEDS standards.Of those 3,400 detainees, Border Patrol held 1,500 for more than 10 days.
In addition to holding roughly 30 percent of minor detainees for longer than 72 hours, several Rio Grande Valley facilities struggled to meet other TEDS standards for UACs and families. For example, children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers, despite the TEDS standards requiring that “reasonable efforts” be made to provide showers to children approaching 48 hours in detention. At these facilities, children had limited access to a change of clothes; Border Patrol had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. While all facilities had infant formula, diapers, baby wipes, and juice and snacks for children, we observed that two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals — as is required by the TEDS standards — until the week we arrived. Instead, the children were fed sandwiches and snacks for their meals. Additionally, while Border Patrol tried to provide the least restrictive setting available for children (e.g., by leaving holding room doors open), the limited space for medical isolation resulted in some UACs and families being held in closed cells.

In the Border Patrol facilities we visited, we also observed serious overcrowding and prolonged detention among adult detainees. TEDS provides that “under no circumstances should the maximum [cell] occupancy rate, as set by the fire marshal, be exceeded.” However, at one facility, some single adults were held in standing room only conditions for a week and at another, some single adults were held more than a month in overcrowded cells