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In the fiscal year 2021, Border Patrol did not always assign migrants an “alien registration number” before they were released into the U.S. in an effort to speed up processing and move migrants out of overcrowded facilities, according to a new report.
The report, from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General, found that U.S. Border Patrol within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) followed screening procedures to prevent migrants with “serious criminal backgrounds” or individuals on the terrorist watch list from entering the U.S.
FILE: Migrants attempting to cross in to the U.S. from Mexico are detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the border August 20, 2022 in San Luis, Arizona. (Nick Ut/Getty Images)
However, the OIG report also determined that Border Patrol did not always assign alien registration numbers, or “A-numbers,” which are necessary to create files on illegal immigrants.
A-numbers allow immigration officials and law enforcement to track and locate a migrant’s file for a complete history of their immigration encounters. It also contains critical documents such as immigration forms, agent narratives of apprehension, and records checks.
According to the DHS OIG, Border Patrol did not issue A-numbers for 107 of 384 migrants in its statistical sample size. Most of them were paroled into the country or issued “Notices to Report.”
DHS OIG said Border Patrol agents did not always assign A-numbers because they were trying to expedite processing and move migrants out of Border Patrol facilities that were exceeding capacity.
During these periods, Border Patrol headquarters directed agents not to assign A-numbers in an effort to reduce processing times. These decisions were communicated through informal emails or orally during daily musters, the OIG report said.
FILE: A migrant waits on the Mexican side of the border after United States Customs and Border Protection officers detained a couple of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border on the beach, in Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
The report further concluded that Border Patrol and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could not provide 80 migrant files that DHS requested because the files were “either lost, disposed of, or in transit.”
Of those 80 files, the report said, DHS OIG identified 58 instances in which Border Patrol agents disposed of temporary files where migrants were not assigned A-numbers. According to Border Patrol officials, they disposed of the files because they did not have record retention requirements for files without assigned A-numbers.
The report concluded that Border Patrol’s informal and expedited practices for processing migrants “could jeopardize the Government’s ability to track migrants released into the United States and ensure migrants appear for immigration proceedings.”
Fox News has reached out to DHS and Border Patrol for additional comment.
The DHS OIG report determined that Border Patrol encountered more than 1.6 million illegal immigrants at the U.S. border in the fiscal year 2021. This fiscal year, the number of migrant encounters at the southern border has exceeded 2 million.