Two controversial pilot programs seeking to rapidly deport Mexican and Central American asylum seekers at the southern border were rife with problems, including immigrant families who were forced to remain in custody longer than was appropriate, and underage girls stuck in the same place of detention with unaccompanied adults. Relatives. Men and toilets in facilities with limited privacy.
Details come from a draft DHS Office of Inspector General report obtained by BuzzFeed News. The two pilot programs launched last fall – the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP) and the Immediate Application Review (PACR) – were part of the Trump administration’s efforts to quickly screen asylum seekers and possibly push them back at the border.
Under HARP, a preliminary screening of Mexican asylum seekers detained by Border Police officers, called a Trusted Fear Interview, was performed by USCIS Asylum Officers within 48 hours, and the decision on the examination was expected to proceed faster than usual. . The other program, PACR, is similarly organized but targets Central Americans who traveled through Mexico to reach the US border.
Programs were eventually suspended during Corona Virus Pandemic, as the administration instead chose to immediately turn around the asylum seekers, including children, at the border.
Department of Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Inspectors focused their investigations in the El Paso area, where they found numerous problems with the pilot programs, including families remaining in border patrol for more than a week, exceeding the 72-hour standard for immigration detention in Customs and Border Protection custody.
But inspectors stressed the lack of privacy at border facilities.
The report alleges that the facility’s large cells have caused CBP officials to struggle with dueling detention standards: those that enforce family unity while also requiring women and children to be separated from unrelated men. Customs and Border Protection officials brought different families together, and as a result, women and girls were held in cells with men and boys who were not family members.
“We found that Customs and Border Protection were gathering several families together in large open cells in El Paso [Central Processing Center] There is no guarantee of privacy or separation of juveniles from adults who are not relatives, ”the report states. In one cell, two 14-year-old girls were detained with nine unrelated men.
“The toilet stalls in the living area with high waist sections provided a little privacy,” and there was no “private nursing area,” although there were mothers with babies. Customs and Border Protection officials placed a guard to supervise the detainees, and there were no subsequent complaints from the families.
According to the report, Customs and Border Protection officials attempted to create a “less restrictive” environment for the detained children.
“CBP has created a play area in each cell, with mats and colorful toys. CBP officials said they have placed concrete pillars lined inside detention cells to protect children who were running around,” the report notes, as it compared this experience to family detention centers. Managed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has outdoor leisure activities, exercise equipment, sports and access to advice. .
The inspectors wrote that border officials did not fully measure the success of the program in any practical way. According to the report, CBP had two rating scales for PACR and not for HARP. There was no evidence that the agency had plans to roll out the policy after evaluating its effectiveness, and what’s more, there were no specific goals the CBP provided for border officials to assess its success in the first place.
Customs and Border Protection officers have had privacy issues for immigrants to speak on their own to legal advisers and government officials. USCIS officials told inspectors that many immigrants do not understand the meaning of legal representation and that Customs and Border Protection officials have struggled to provide them with access to phones.
During a credible fear interview, asylum seekers must demonstrate that there is a high probability that they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. In the period leading up to the interview, migrants use their detained time to consult with lawyers or others to help them prepare their case.
Ultimately, only a small percentage of each of these groups managed to pass the initial asylum screening interview: 19% for PACR and 29% for HARP.
The inspector general’s draft report was an interim document, and inspectors plan to assess the remaining border sites in the future.