EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal agency says it has complied with the first of four recommendations in an Office of the Inspector General report stating it held hundreds of migrants in El Paso and New Mexico longer than 72 hours.

The OIG report released this week is based on surprise visits to seven El Paso Sector facilities last October. The inspections revealed that the Border Patrol held 493 migrants in custody “longer than specified in the applicable standards,” which generally limit detention to 72 hours.

The report documenting detention conditions as they existed 10 months ago also said the Border Patrol held migrants longer than 14 days and reported migrants expelled under Title 42 as “Not in custody,” despite some of them being placed in temporary custody prior to expulsion. Migrants held for more than 14 days may no longer be eligible for public health Title 42 expulsions, according to the report.

The OIG report states Border Patrol officials explained that another agency, Enforcement and Removal Operations, a branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), did not have available space in its long-term detention facilities to transfer migrants there. The agency also said ICE ERO canceled some deportation flights, resulting in prolonged detention of some migrants at the Border Patrol’s El Paso Central Processing Center.

Some of the El Paso Sector facilities inspected also were receiving overflow migrants apprehended in Yuma, Arizona, the Rio Grande Valley and the Big Bed Sector of Texas.

The OIG makes four recommendations in its report, including for the Border Patrol to:

  • Come up with strategies to manage delays in migrant transfers to other agencies.
  • Clarify how the agency uses Office of Field Operations facilities.
  • Document procedures for making exceptions to applicable standards when it comes to holding unrelated family units in the same detention pod.
  • Ensure detainees who speak neither English nor Spanish get interpretation during medical screenings.

The report states CBP agreed with the first recommendation and has since taken “numerous actions” including weekly reports on detainee movement, personnel deployment and whole-of-government planning efforts, among others.

But CBP disagreed with the rest of the OIG’s recommendations, which the latter has now classified as “unresolved and open.”

Border Report requested comment from CBP and ICE regarding the report. CBP referred to its written response to the Office of the Inspector General, which states:

“CBP remains committed to complying with its policies, including (applicable standards), by providing reasonable and appropriate care for persons in CBP custody,” the agency said, adding that the Border Patrol “utilizes every effort” to process or release migrants within 72 hours.

The Border Patrol also has implemented daily coordination with other federal agencies and local community stakeholders to “facilitate the orderly and timely release of people in CBP custody.”

CBP said connectivity issues on the field forced Border Patrol to use a port of entry for mobile processing; that volume and demographics allow it to make exceptions to standards when it comes to the housing of family units; and that it found no record of an individual requesting non-English, non-Spanish interpretation during a medical screening, which is routinely provided upon request. The agency said that explains why it disagrees with the OIG’s other three recommendations.