By Charlotte Cuthbertson
Border Patrol agents failed to assign an official “alien registration number” to up to one-fourth of illegal immigrants released into the United States between April and September last year, according to a new report issued by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (IG).
An alien registration number, or A-number, is meant to be provided to every illegal alien being released into the United States, as well as all legal immigrants. It’s a unique number assigned to each individual that allows immigration authorities and law enforcement to track that person’s case and status.
The IG’s office selected 384 illegal aliens for its report, from a total number of 384,938 potentially released into the United States during the six-month period.
“We found that Border Patrol did not issue A-numbers for 107 of 384 migrants, most of whom were paroled into the country or issued Notices to Report,” the Sept. 21 report states.
The IG’s office noted that it was unable to extrapolate the results to the whole population as the missing A-numbers applied to members of a family. The agency didn’t respond to a request asking for more clarification as to why the results couldn’t be extrapolated.
As border regions became overcrowded and overwhelmed last year, Washington leadership instructed Border Patrol agents to release entire families with just the “head of household” given an A-number.
When agents apprehend illegal aliens, they usually take biographical information such as fingerprints and photographs to attach to each person’s file that has its own unique A-number. However, no biographical information is taken for children under the age of 14.
The IG’s office said it conducted its report “to determine to what extent CBP [Customs and Border Protection] screened migrants to prevent criminals, drug traffickers, and terrorist watch list individuals from entering the United States along the Southwest Border.”
In total, during fiscal year 2021, Border Patrol apprehended more than 1.6 million illegal aliens at the southern border. This fiscal year it will reach more than 2 million.
In addition to the failure to provide A-numbers, Border Patrol destroyed files relating to illegal aliens that the IG report said the agency should have retained.
“Border Patrol and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could not provide 80 of the requested 384 migrant files because they were either lost, disposed of, or in transit,” the report stated.
“Border Patrol disposed of the files because they did not have A-numbers and were unaware of record retention requirements.”
Aside from the above issues, the IG’s office found that Border Patrol agents followed the requisite screening procedures to prevent illegal aliens with “serious criminal backgrounds or individuals on the terrorist watch list from entering the United States.”
During fiscal year 2021, Border Patrol agents apprehended 15 illegal aliens who were on the terrorist watchlist, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics. So far in fiscal 2022, agents have apprehended 78 individuals on the watchlist between ports of entry.
Border Patrol agents have apprehended nearly 11,000 convicted criminals at the border and a further 836 with warrants for arrest so far this fiscal year. An additional 697 gang members have been arrested at the border.
The IG report doesn’t mention the number of illegal aliens Border Patrol detects but doesn’t apprehend. That number is estimated to be approximately 800,000 for fiscal year 2022 so far.
Of the 617,600 illegal immigrants Border Patrol released into the United States in fiscal year 2021, the Inspector General’s office determined that more than 353,500 were issued an A-number and an immigration court date to start removal proceedings.
An additional 103,900 were released with a notice to report, which was a request to check in with a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office within 60 days, which would then issue an A-number.
Further, 35,200 were released with an A-number only issued to the head of the household, but with a tracking mechanism such as an ankle bracelet or smartphone.
The remainder, more than 125,000 individuals, were released through “other processing pathways” not specified in the report.
The IG report recommended that all illegal aliens released into the United States be issued an A-number, records be retained, and “processing pathways comply with existing law and policy.”