Expedited federal review of documents of migrants being confiscated by border officials

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told CBS News that the federal government is reviewing internal practices regarding the return of property of migrants who said their passports, birth certificates and other personal documents were confiscated and at the border. were not returned by patrol.

When asked to respond to the accounts of those migrants, the department confirmed the review. Said “60 Minutes” That U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials kept their documents at the U.S.-Mexico border, while agency policy directed agents to return migrants’ personal property unless they committed fraud.

“CBP and [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] DHS, in its statement, is reviewing its policies and practices to ensure that once a migrant is released from their custody, their documents are returned to the migrant.

In a story Sunday on the thousands of migrants who have arrived in New York City over the past few months, “60 Minutes” reported that four of the 16 Venezuelan migrants interviewed recently said that the Border Patrol had asked for personal information before releasing them. Documents not returned. , Lawyers, teachers, case workers and volunteers in New York told “60 Minutes” that the problem is widespread, citing conversations with dozens of migrants.

The immigrants’ accounts Democratic Reps. Benny Thompson, Joaquin Castro, Ral Grijalva and Nanette Barragan were also prompted to ask the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, to conduct a review of CBP’s “activities, policies and procedures in relation to the conduct”. of personal property belonging to the persons in its custody.”

The lawmakers said in their request on Friday, “Media outlets and other organizations have been asked by Border Patrol agents to confiscate religious headwear of asylum seekers, as well as not to return or return personal property belonging to persons apprehended at the Southwest Border.” Concerns about improper discard have been reported.”

In August, CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus announced an investigation into allegations by the American Civil Liberties Union that dozens of Sikh migrants had their turbans confiscated and not returned by Border Patrol agents at the Arizona border.

The Border Patrol, an agency overseen by the CBP, is responsible for capturing, processing and investigating migrants entering the US illegally. It typically holds migrants and asylum seekers in prison-like stations or tent facilities for a short period of time, before deporting them, transferring them to another agency, or releasing them.

A 2015 CBP policy that remains in effect calls for “protecting” the personal property of detained migrants if it is not determined to be restricted and calls for agents to make “every effort”. directs to transfer, deport the said property along with the prisoners for or issued.

The policy also states that migrant documents “must be returned to the detainee upon release, removal to repatriation, or retention in the private property of detainees,” unless they are considered fraudulent. But most of the migrants interviewed “60 Minutes” said the Border Patrol did not follow these policies.

Beberlin, 33, a Venezuelan expatriate who crossed the US-Mexico border earlier this year, said Border Patrol agents took away her family’s details, including her passport, Venezuelan identity card, her children’s birth certificates and her husband’s driver’s license. Keep many personal documents.

“They took them from me. Immigration took them from me,” said Beberlin, who is now living at a New York City shelter with her husband, 15-year-old nephew, 12-year-old son, and 4-year-old. daughter.

Like other migrants, Beberlin said border agents told her they would receive their documents during their immigration court hearing. But her family has yet to get a court appointment, and lawyers said it was unlikely the documents seized on the southern border would be transferred to courts across the US.

“I need them,” Beberlin said of the documents. His surname is being withheld due to his pending immigration case. “Passports are very important here. To open an account, to identify myself, and I don’t have that document. I don’t have the birth records of the kids because they took them from me. That makes me feel bad.”

Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former DHS immigration official during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said the Border Patrol’s reported failure to follow its document return policy could stem from the increasing number of immigrants the agency has to deal with. had to be processed. past year.

Federal officials at the southern border stopped migrants more than 2.3 million times in fiscal year 2022, a 12-month period that ended on September 30, CBP figures show. The figure, a record high, includes more than 1 million evictions of migrants processed under a public health order that barred them from requesting asylum.

Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy, said, “I think it’s in large part just because of the number and volume of people, and how quickly CBP is basically trying to get them out of their custody. ” Bipartisan Policy Center. “They’re probably not caring that they should.”

Cardinal Brown said this trend is “problematic” for all: “It is problematic that the government is not following its policies. If you can help prove it, it will be harder for them to do so in court.”

Maria, another Venezuelan migrant who lives with her family in a New York City shelter, said Border Patrol agents failed to return her children’s birth certificates and vaccine records, as well as her and her husband’s passports and identity cards. He asked for his surname to be removed citing his pending case.

During a recent check-in appointment at the ICE office in Manhattan, Maria said she was told her documents were still in Texas when he asked about her whereabouts. She said her 1-year-old daughter’s vaccinations are being delayed because they now have records showing which shots she has received and when.

Maria said she was also told her family documents would be returned to immigration court, but she did not think she would be able to see them again.

“I haven’t heard anyone say that they got their documents back,” he said.

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