5 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork”

October 17, 2022

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), summarized by the Washington Post, looked at “Notices to Report” that Border Patrol issued to 94,000 migrant family members released into the United States between May and September 2021. (The documents, which involved little paperwork at a time of heavy migrant arrivals, required migrants to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office within 60 days.)

It found that on about 60 percent of the “Notices” issued during the first 3 months of the process, Border Patrol agents had entered incorrect or incomplete address information for the migrants’ intended destinations. Entries often left streets or even city names off of addresses, as well as apartment numbers.

About 75 percent of migrant families required to “report” did indeed show up, which overwhelmed many ICE offices in migrants’ destination cities. GAO noted a lack of coordination between CBP and ICE. In November 2021, CBP stopped issuing “Notices to Report” and now relies more on “alternatives to detention” with electronic monitoring.

— “Southwest Border: Challenges and Efforts Implementing New Processes for Noncitizen Families.” Washington: U.S. Government Accountability Office, September 28, 2022. <https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105456>.

— Miroff, Nick. “GAO Examines U.S. Border Practices in Facing Record Numbers of Migrants.” Washington Post, October 18, 2022. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/17/border-report-migrants/>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: GAO Investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

October 17, 2022

In fiscal year 2022, “Immigration Court judges dismissed a total of 63,586 cases”—1 out of every 6 that year—“because Department of Homeland Security officials, chiefly Border Patrol agents, are not filing the actual ‘Notice to Appear’ (NTA) with the Immigration Court,” reported Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration program. Such failures to file were rare, TRAC noted, “until Border Patrol agents were given the authority to use the Immigration Court’s Interactive Scheduling System.” Meanwhile, “the public has also been left in the dark as to what ultimately happens to these cases and the immigrant involved.”

“This is exceedingly wasteful of the Court’s time,” TRAC explained. “It is also problematic for the immigrant (and possibly their attorney) if they show up at hearings only to have the case dismissed by the Immigration Judge because the case hasn’t actually been filed with the Court.”

— “Over 63,000 DHS Cases Thrown Out of Immigration Court This Year Because No NTA Was Filed.” Syracuse: TRAC Immigration, October 17, 2022. <https://trac.syr.edu/reports/699/>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

September 19, 2022

“Border Patrol did not issue A-numbers to 107 of 384 migrants in our statistical sample,” reads a report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General. (An A-number is a unique number that DHS assigns to every migrant, the report explains, “which allows immigration and law enforcement officials to track and locate a migrant’s A-File for a complete history of their immigration encounters.”)

Of those 107 migrants without A-numbers, Border Patrol paroled 104 into the U.S. interior. The Inspector-General noted that this was a result of the agency operating near capacity at moments of heavy migration. As a result, however, “Border Patrol and USCIS could not provide 80 migrant files we requested because the files were either lost, disposed of, or in transit.”

— “U.S. Border Patrol Screened Migrants at the Southwest Border but Could Strengthen Processes.” Washington: DHS Office of Inspector-General, September 19, 2022. <https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-09/OIG-22-71-Sep22.pdf>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

September 15, 2022

A letter from several non-profit organizations and an article at BuzzFeed point to border law enforcement officials inventing addresses around the United States and adding them to asylum seekers’ immigration paperwork, when those asylum seekers lack U.S. relatives, contacts, or specific destinations. In most cases, the addresses that officials—usually Border Patrol agents—add to documents like immigration-court hearing notices and Notices to Appear are those of non-profit service providers in cities around the United States.

CBP and Border Patrol do not inform those service providers. “Catholic Charities in New York, City received over 300 such notices,” the letter reads. It adds that asylum seekers are showing up at nonprofits or churches around the country with paperwork, issued by CBP, Border Patrol or ICE, showing those entities’ locations as migrants’ intended residences.

An October 2022 Associated Press review of 13 migrants’ documents found addresses including those of “administrative offices of Catholic Charities in New York and San Antonio; an El Paso, Texas, church; a private home in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts; and a group operating homeless shelters in Salt Lake City.”

In many cases, the non-profits are not prepared for the migrants’ arrival or to receive walk-ins. In some cases, service providers receive notifications that migrants may be headed their way, but are unable to locate them. “These immigrants and asylum-seekers, most of them from Venezuela, then show up to random buildings confused and unsure of what to do next,” BuzzFeed reported. “It’s definitely been happening, and there’s hundreds of cases,” BuzzFeed reporter Adolfo Flores told Texas Standard.

“The DHS [Department of Homeland Security] agent will just seem to invent an address from thin air to put on their release paperwork,” immigration attorney and asylum advocate Taylor Levy told BuzzFeed. At times, she said, the Border Patrol agent or ICE officer will mislead the migrant, telling them that shelter and other services will be available at the address.

Reports about eight Venezuelan men arriving, baffled, at a Sacramento, California office building were apparently one of these cases. They were flown there by a San Antonio, Texas service provider that had purchased plane tickets based on the addresses that U.S. border law enforcement personnel had added to the migrants’ immigration forms. A Venezuelan migrant told the New York Times that he and his brother “had no family in the United States. ‘The officials picked Denver for us, and that was it.'”

This practice jeopardizes asylum-seekers’ immigration cases. If the migrant does not receive notifications for court hearings or other required appearances they cannot follow through with their cases, which can lead to in-absentia deportation orders. All correspondence regarding such appearances gets mailed to the address on these forms, unless the migrant goes to a nearby ICE office to change it, a complex process.

Some of the problem stems from agencies’ need to process large numbers of asylum seekers quickly, at a time of record migration. “I’m sure that Border Patrol agents, they’re just trying to get people out of their facilities. They don’t want to hold them there any longer than they have to, and without an address, in some cases I’m sure the agents tell them it’s either ‘I put this address or you stay here longer,’” Flores of BuzzFeed told Texas Standard.

Still, Levy told Flores, “it is certainly wrong—and appears illegal—for federal agents sworn to uphold the law to randomly choose addresses of churches, legal service agencies, and immigration nonprofits from crude google searches and then record them as alleged ‘residential’ addresses for desperate asylum-seekers.”

— American Immigration Lawyers’ Association and coalition partners. “AILA and Partners Submit Recommendations to Fix Erroneous Addresses on Asylum Seekers’ Documents,” September 15, 2022. <https://www.aila.org/infonet/organizations-urge-administration-to-address>.

— Flores, Adolfo. “Border Agents Keep Sending Immigrants To Wrong Addresses With Little Regard For How It Could Affect Their Court Cases, Advocates Say.” BuzzFeed News, September 21, 2022. <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/immigrants-border-wrong-addresses-shelter>.

— Kristen Cabrera. “Federal Immigration Agents Are Writing Wrong Addresses on Some Migrants’ Documents, Creating Confusion.” Texas Standard (blog), September 27, 2022. <https://www.texasstandard.org/stories/federal-immigration-agents-writing-wrong-addresses-migrants-documents-creating-confusion/>.

— Clauda Torrens and Vanessa A. Alvarez. “US Border Patrol Sends Migrants Places Where No Help Waits.” Associated Press, October 24, 2022. <https://apnews.com/article/texas-new-york-manhattan-religion-immigration-6d400698888dc0797f1883176baf12c7>.

— Robles, Justo. “No Money or Options: A Migrant’s Unexpected Journey to California.” The Guardian, September 24, 2022, sec. US news. <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/24/migrant-plane-venezuela-sacramento>.

— Jordan, Miriam, and Brittany Kriegstein. “Abrupt New Border Expulsions Split Venezuelan Families.” The New York Times, November 6, 2022, sec. U.S. <https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/06/us/venezuelan-families-separated-border.html>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP, ICE

Event Type(s): Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Venezuela

July 28, 2022

The Dallas Morning News reported that Border Patrol agents appeared to be fabricating information on asylum seekers’ entry paperwork. It cited an egregious case, in the Rio Grande Valley sector, of a two-year-old toddler whose form read that he told agents he intended to travel to Dallas “to seek employment” and did not fear being returned to El Salvador.

Falsifying information on intake forms can mean swift deportation for protection-seeking migrants subject to the expedited removal process. “Immigration attorneys say instances like this aren’t uncommon and are part of a wave of expedited removals,” the Morning News reported.

— Dianne Solis, “Border agents deny entry to migrants based on interviews lawyers say are fiction” (Dallas: Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2022) https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2022/07/28/border-agents-deny-entry-to-migrants-based-on-interviews-lawyers-say-are-fiction/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Compelling Signature of English-Language Documents, Falsification or Negligent Handling of Asylum Paperwork

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, El Salvador