Monday, December 26, 2011

CBP Falling Down On The Job

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to fall down on the job. One must start with the fact that half of all illegal aliens enter the United States through inspection at an officially designated Port-of-Entry (POE) and after inspection by a CBP Officer (CBPO). The second half of this problem is the performance failures of CBPOs while performing their duties. The half of illegal aliens who enter legally are not just those who overstay a lawful admission, but includes those who present fraudulently obtained documents, false claims to U.S. citizenship, counterfeit documents, altered documents, imposters, and, most importantly, those who are not properly inspected, including credulity on behalf of the CBPO, failure to use available technology such as US VISIT, and failure to search and interview the applicant for admission.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued yet another report on the failures of CBPOs to discover fraudulent documents and conduct proper inspections of applicants for admission, centering around the failure of CBP to properly train CBPOs on immigration law, fraudulent document detection, and, more importantly, interviewing of applicants.

GAO December 22, 2011


CBP has taken some steps to identify and address the training needs of its incumbent CBP officers, but could do more to ensure that these officers are fully trained. GAO examined CBP’s results of covert tests conducted over more than 2 years and found significant weaknesses in the CBP inspection process at the ports of entry that were tested. In response to these tests, CBP developed a “Back to Basics” course in March 2010 for incumbent officers but has no plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the training. Moreover, CBP has not conducted an analysis of all the possible causes or systemic issues that may be contributing to the test results. Further evaluation of the training and causes underlying covert test results could help inform CBP about whether the training is sufficient to address the weaknesses identified by the covert tests or if adjustments are needed.

Note that the failure of CBP has several causes. The first is the leadership of the legacy INS and the current CBP. This is a function of the hostility of management at the senior and political level to the main purpose of CBP, which is to control the entry of persons and goods into the United States. There has been an ongoing Administrative Amnesty for certain classes of illegal aliens at POEs. Both political and professional managers have been more concerned about mollycoddling ethnic pressure groups and the politically connected to fully enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act at the border.

Add to the amnesty mindset the failure of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA) to improve the administration of the inspection process at POEs. One of the main purposes of the HSA was to have "one face at the border." The problem was that the one face at the border ended up being the mid-level managers of the legacy U.S. Customs Service (USCS) rather than the legacy INS. Previously POEs had two separate agencies conducting separate inspection of arriving persons and goods. The legacy INS inspected arriving persons, the legacy USCS inspected arriving things. The legacy USCS was only interested in imposing duty on arriving goods and discovering arriving contraband, like drugs. They had little or no concern about people. And since the creation of CBP, management of "one face at the border" has been a Customs face, concerned only with the issue of arriving things, not people. This was soon reflected in training of new officers, who received almost no training on fraudulent documents, immigration law, or anything related to the enforcement of immigration law.

Various Red-Team testing by GAO soon after the HSA created CBP showed that the problem of CBP inspection failures were not addressed in 2007 after a major report on the same problem.

GAO November 2007


CBP has had some success in identifying inadmissible aliens and other violators, but weaknesses in its operations increase the potential that terrorists and inadmissible travelers could enter the country. In fiscal year 2006, CBP turned away over 200,000 inadmissible aliens and interdicted other violators. Although CBP’s goal is to interdict all violators, CBP estimated that several thousand inadmissible aliens and other violators entered the country though ports of entry in fiscal year 2006. Weaknesses in 2006 inspection procedures, such as not verifying the nationality and admissibility of each traveler, contribute to failed inspections. Although CBP took actions to address these weaknesses, subsequent follow up work conducted by GAO months after CBP’s actions found that weaknesses such as those described above still existed. In July 2007, CBP issued detailed procedures for conducting inspections including requiring field office managers to assess compliance with these procedures. However, CBP has not established an internal control to ensure field office managers share their assessments with CBP headquarters to help ensure that the new procedures are consistently implemented across all ports of entry and reduce the risk of failed traveler inspections.

An aspect of the CBP failures is that CBP considers itself primarily an anti-terrorism agency rather than an immigration and customs law enforcement agency. From its own website:

CBP is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws.

In fact the discovery of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction are a minor part of CBP accomplishments or actual responsibilities. Few terrorists have been intercepted at a POEs or crossing the border without inspection. CBP's real mission remains that of the legacy INS and legacy USCS, enforcing customs and immigration law. From their mission statement, immigration and drug laws appear to be an afterthought. And CBP's training and performance failures reflect that.

In fact, of those terrorists who have crossed our borders, CBP has caught almost none of them. Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, Faisal Shahzad, and Najibullah Zazi are just a few terrorists who routinely entered the United States that CBP failed to intercept.

And things only got worse after the GAO 2007 report. There has been an ongoing purge of legacy INS employees at CBP, their years of knowledge and expertise in immigration law, fraudulent documents and procedure, lost forever, that CBP is desperate to rebuild after another report by GAO emphasizing CBP inspection failures. And CBP management continues to fail at all levels, both at the political level and the professional management levels, lower, mid and upper.

Key failures have been under a series of CBP Commissioners, Robert Bonner, W. Ralph Basham, and Alan Bersin, who have been either lawyers with no immigration or customs law enforcement experience or in the case of Basham, a former U.S. Secret Service manager, still with no experience in either immigration or customs law enforcement. As an example, to this day under their direction CBP continues to refuse to use US VISIT on the Mexican border, actively enabling the entry of illegal aliens. The primary reason is that using US VISIT on the land borders will cause a further delay in the entry of persons over the land border. And that will violate one of the cardinal sins in CBP today, and of yesteryear as well, a long wait time. Border wait times are how CBP managers are judged and the sine qua non of CBP performance. CBP even has an app for that. But it does not use the most important app for catching imposters and fraudulent documents at the land border, US VISIT. Because that was not and is not a concern of CBP. Border commerce and cheap housekeepers for the border rich and powerful are more important. Interior enforcement by the U.S. Border Patrol is not.

The failure on CBP's part has been continuous since 9/11. And the failures are mounting and they are systemic. And yet nothing is done, deliberately.

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