Skip to content
May 23rd, 2024
New GAO Report Details Border Patrol’s Inconsistency in Handling Migrant Possessions; Recommends Additional Guidance

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on U.S Customs and Border Protections’ (CBP) handling of migrant possessions and the need for more standardized practices and oversight. The GAO report was prompted by a November 2022 letter sent by Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).  

The GAO report validates concerns that Border Patrol needs to issue clarifying guidance on handling personal property and develop and implement a mechanism to monitor its implementation. Currently, field locations interpret the guidance differently because key terms and concepts are not defined.  

Based on the report’s findings, GAO made three recommendations:  

  1. The Chief of Border Patrol should issue clarifying guidance for the handling of personal property that defines key terms and concepts, including addressing the amount of property that sectors and facilities should collect and store, the types of property that may or may not be discarded, and steps for transferring and returning property. 
  2. The Chief of Border Patrol should develop a mechanism to monitor how sectors and facilities implement guidance for the handling of personal property.  
  3. The Commissioner of CBP should ensure that upon release from CBP custody, individuals are provided written instructions explaining how to retrieve any lost or left behind personal property, including information specific to the facilities in which they were held.  

Read the report and its findings HERE 

“This GAO report confirms what my office has been hearing from individuals and advocacy groups for years: CBP continues to force individuals to do away with their personal belongings while in custody, despite policy stating they must safeguard, itemize, document, and keep possessions accessible. These inconsistencies within DHS must stop,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Migrants’ sensitive documents, religious items, and personal belongings should not be lost in the process. CBP must take immediate action to implement these sensible recommendations, and as lawmakers, we will continue to provide oversight on this important issue.”  

“It’s clear that CBP must do a better job in storing migrants’ documents and personal effects – and must develop a uniform and clear policy for doing so across all sectors,” said Rep. Thompson, Ranking Member of the Homeland  Security Committee. “We must treat migrants with respect – and that includes keeping their belongings safe and returning them whenever possible.”

“The GAO report’s findings are unacceptable,” said Rep. Barragán. “Many asylum seekers and migrant families who risk their lives to travel to the United States border and they deserve to be treated with dignity, and not have their sensitive and personal belongings taken from them and not returned. I urge CBP to implement the GAO’s recommendations and ensure that these possessions are logged and returned to their rightful owners as quickly as possible.”

“Asylum-seekers and immigrant families who travel thousands of miles to find safety in the United States deserve to be treated with compassion and decency,” said Rep. Castro. “After months of painstaking research, the nonpartisan analysts at GAO have produced a report that backs up longstanding complaints about CBP’s cruel practice of confiscating religious items and sensitive documents from migrants. CBP should immediately implement the GAO’s recommendations and issue clarifying guidance to ensure that migrants can retain their personal property and documents necessary for asylum cases. Congress should not allow the United States to become the kind of nation that strips migrants of their articles of faith as punishment for seeking a better life.”

Prior to the November 2022 letter, Rep. Grijalva was spurred by reports of CBP agents confiscating and discarding migrants’ personal property, including religious property such as Sikh turbans, to inquire on this issue. As a result, Rep. Grijalva was joined by Reps. Castro and Barragán in leading 20 members of Congress in a letter to former CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus and Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tae D. Johnson.  

​Additionally, Reps. Grijalva and Castro co-led a follow-up letter in August 2022 demanding accountability after continued reports of turban confiscations. 

Back To News