The Biden administration's agents working along the U.S.–Mexico border are primarily providing illegal immigrants with "care and welfare" services, according to a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official.
The report also noted issues with recruitment and hiring. These issues combined, according to the report, had led to many officers having to take on responsibilities outside their typical roles, which has affected their own operations.
"It’s concerning that agents are not performing their primary law enforcement roles," Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said in response to the report's findings during the hearing.
"America is largely under the impression that we’re moving border agents down [to the border] to enhance law enforcement. Is that the role that these agents are primarily performing, Mr. Cuffari?" he asked.
Report FindingsCuffari's May 3 report was based on an audit and survey responses involving interviews with 9,311 law enforcement personnel.
It found that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) current method of managing law enforcement staffing is "unsustainable."
"CBP and ICE workloads have grown significantly due to factors beyond the Department of Homeland Security’s control, namely increasing border encounters and travel volume," the report states. "Despite greater workloads, staffing levels have remained the same, with CBP and ICE using details and overtime to temporarily address the rising number of encounters along the Southwest border."
Specifically, the report noted that the situation at the border—staffing challenges and an increased number of illegal immigrants crossing—has "negatively impacted the health and morale of law enforcement personnel, who feel overworked and unable to perform their primary law enforcement duties."
"Although CBP and ICE annually assess their staffing needs, neither has assessed how using details and overtime has affected the workforce and operations," the report states.
Unless CBP and ICE assess and strategically change their current staffing management at the border, heavier workloads and low morale may lead to higher turnover and earlier retirements. This could worsen staffing challenges and degrade CBP and ICE’s capacity to perform their mission," the report said.
According to the report, both CBP and ICE were "consistently staffed close to their authorized hiring levels" between 2019 and 2021, but the number of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border rose drastically in 2022, while staffing at the border did not grow at the same pace.
In 2021 and 2022, for example, there were roughly 7,800 officers assigned to the southwest border, meaning that roughly the same number of officers who processed about 6,300 immigrant encounters per month in 2021 processed nearly 14,400 encounters per month in 2022, according to the report.
Democrats Criticize Inspector GeneralVehicle traffic also increased along ports of entry at the southern border in 2022, with 5 million more vehicles and travelers crossing the border during that year compared to 2021, the report found.
On average, officers processed 15.3 million vehicles and travelers per month in 2021 and 20.7 million vehicles and travelers per month in 2022, according to the report.
"With the consistently high volume of migrant encounters, these challenges are reducing the number of available staff to work along the Southwest border," the report said.
Despite Cuffari's comments, Democratic lawmakers including Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), repeatedly took aim at the DHS inspector general during the June 6 hearing, at one point questioning the methods used in the report which they said could create an inaccurate picture of the situation at the border.
"This is a report that would not pass muster in any serious survey work," Garcia said.
Democrats also repeatedly noted that Cuffari is currently under investigation by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency after he failed to notify Congress immediately upon learning the Secret Service had deleted text messages during an investigation of the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
In turn, Higgins defended Cuffari and his work, calling him "one of the most honorable men I've ever met" who he said "has a rare combination of experience and intellect and honor."
The lawmaker also stated that the DHS inspector general had been repeatedly targeted by "the left" and that his report highlighted the number of law enforcement agents who were resigned to doing "housekeeping and social work" at the border.
"They [Democrats] are folding themselves in half over there trying to impugn you and getting nowhere," Higgins said. "America is watching."