Despite new border systems, IG finds illegal entries using stolen passports persist

Despite new border systems, IG finds illegal entries using stolen passports persist

Bearers of stolen passports gain entry into the country frequently even though Homeland Security Department systems include alerts about the bogus credentials, according to the department's inspector general.

Officials from DHS' Customs and Border Protection bureau who work at ports of entry have cleared dozens of people to enter the country even though the travelers held stolen passports that raised system alerts, the IG noted in a new report.

CPB border officials repeatedly entered only sketchy details into DHS systems about decisions to let holders of stolen passports cross the border, even after officials had singled out travelers for detailed screening, the IG reported.

Auditors studied one group of travelers with stolen passports that did not have lookouts posted. 'From this group, 78 of 98 aliens attempting entry were admitted,' the report said.

A second group of travelers the officials reviewed carried passports for which DHS systems had alerts called lookouts. 'From the second group, 57 out of 78 aliens attempting entry were admitted'33 of these admissions occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. Even though 39 aliens from the second group were referred to secondary inspections for more intensive interviews, 18 were subsequently admitted.'

IG officials pointed out that bearers of stolen passports had succeeded in 'defeating a costly apparatus established precisely to prevent' such illegal entries, and 'there was no law enforcement pursuit once it was recognized that an illegal entry had occurred.'

The IG recommended that primary inspectors should refer travelers to secondary inspection when system checks reveal that the aliens' passports are tagged as stolen and that inspectors fully document any decisions to let such travelers enter the country.

The report cited the involvement of several border IT systems in the process of pinpointing stolen passports and their bearers. They include the Advance Passenger Information System that contains biographic information about travelers, the Treasury Enforcement Communications System and other databases used by CBP's National Targeting Center at headquarters and the Passenger Analysis Units at ports of entry.

The IG urged the department to strengthen training for border officials in procedures for using the systems and recording data about decisions to admit questionable travelers.

DHS generally agreed with the recommended changes. In a written response, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, said, however, that investigators had made broad and generalized conclusions based on a small and nonstatistical sample. He added that the department already has taken steps to curb the problems.

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