In November of 2022, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) from the Department of Homeland Security conducted unannounced inspections of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. They inspected two facilities of the El Paso sector and one Office of Field Operations port of entry. On September 15th of 2023, OIG published a 40 page report of their findings.
At the time of the inspection, Border Patrol’s facilities had 1,903 detainees in custody at the El Paso processing center (M-CPC) and the inspectors interviewed a random sample of 10 percent of these detainees. The inspection broadly revealed that the Border Patrol facilities met TEDS standards to provide basic amenities including drinking water, meals, access to toilets, hygienic supplies, and bedding.
The report, however, indicates a series of concerns regarding CBP’s compliance with detention time requirements, as well as providing regularly scheduled meals and showers. During their inspection, they found that of the 190 detainees sampled, 91 were held in custody longer than the specified time included in National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS), which limits custody detention to 72 hours. TEDS standards also require facilities to provide showers to juveniles approaching 48 hours and adults approaching 72 hours in CBP custody. While detainees were provided with showers during intake, they were not provided with showers every 48 or 72 thereafter. Detainees were also not given hygienic materials like toothpaste and toothbrushes during their intake. According to a CBP official, the facility faced limited shower capacity, insufficient staffing, and overcrowding that prevented officers from providing these required showers and supplies.
The M-CPC had eight different detention pods to place detainees. In each pod, there was overcrowding. For pods 3,5, and 6, capacity reached over 200%, with the pods holding 205%, 203%, and 273% capacity, respectively.
The inspection also revealed data integrity issues in Border Patrol’s electronic records system, e3. During an inspection of a sample of twenty custody logs, OIG found gaps in entries of when meals, blankets, and hygiene items were provided. When attempting to locate a detainee for interviews, CBP officials were unable to locate the person due to e3 discrepancies.
After the inspection, OIG left the facilities with five recommendations to fix these issues, including developing strategies to facilitate detainee transfers, upgrading staff availability, ensuring compliance with TED standards, establishing regularly scheduled mealtimes, and overseeing a review of the e3 system to monitor data integrity. In their February follow-up, CBP inspected the facility once again, and considered all of their final recommendations resolved.
“Results of Unannounced Inspections of CBP Holding Facilities in the El Paso Area.” Washington: DHS Office of Inspector-General, September 15, 2023. https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2023-09/OIG-23-50-Sep23.pdf.