Border Patrol Audit Shows Crucial Step Being Skipped, Harming Americans and Migrants Alike
A recent report issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) contains alarming data about the U.S. Border Patrol’s mishandling of alien personal data during the current border crisis. Coverage on the report leaves out the practical effects of this mishandling, which threatens to leave potentially hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens untraceable and in legal limbo.
In a sample of the nearly 400,000 illegal aliens released into the U.S. during a six-month period in 2021, more than one-fourth were not issued alien registration numbers (A-numbers). These numbers are tied to individual files with biographical information and are essential for virtually every government function related to migration.
Despite this, the report shows that a huge fraction of arrested illegals are released into the country without this vital information being collected, or even with their files numberless and later destroyed. Some aliens have only been given a request to get an A-number later at an ICE office. In other cases, only the head of a family has been given an A-number without the information on other family members being collected.
What are the practical implications of this failure to follow procedure? First, it prevents aliens who might actually have legitimate asylum cases from seeking relief. The most basic parts of an asylum claim, including the filing itself and FOIA requests, require an A-number from every applicant. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claims the objective of the current administration is “safe, orderly, and legal pathways…to access our legal system.” Because the Border Patrol is underfunded and cannot manage the crisis at the border and follow procedure, genuinely persecuted individuals have likely been barred from access.
A lack of A-numbers presents an even bigger problem for those attempting to enforce our immigration laws. This is especially true when dealing with very numerous economic migrants, who often don’t want to be tracked. As I can personally attest from my time working for ICE, A-numbers are the only effective way to search key law enforcement databases and store information internally. Without the tool that enforcement is literally built around, a huge number of people who have been “processed” are still effectively invisible to the system. For criminals and aliens who want to work illegally, showing up at the border on a busy day can mean getting released with anonymity and impunity.
For years, and especially during the current administration, immigration enforcement agencies have been underfunded and misdirected for political purposes. The unprecedented crisis on the border is now pushing the already constrained Border Patrol past its limits, leading to scandals like this. This failure to properly process thousands of aliens, leaving refugees helpless and criminals anonymous, is just one symptom of a larger problem that demands an immediate response.