Friday, April 22, 2022

U.S. Government Undercounts and Underreports Border Deaths

The GAO concluded that the Border Patrol failed to provide lawmakers an accurate tally in a 2020 report of people who died attempting to enter the country. It did not include the number of deaths reported by state police and other local partners, the GAO found.  "[Congress] directed [Customs and Border Protection (CBP)] to report on each discovery of migrant remains along the southern border, 'whether the discovery was made by CBP personnel or other individuals or organizations,'" the GAO pointed out.
The summary of the report states as follows:
"What GAO Found
The U.S. Border Patrol set up the Missing Migrant Program in 2017 to help rescue migrants in distress and reduce migrant deaths along the southwest border. Border Patrol issued nationwide procedures in September 2021, and has coordinated with external entities (e.g., state and local officials) and undertook various efforts to help reduce the frequency of migrant deaths. In particular, the nationwide procedures are intended to help standardize how Border Patrol coordinates with external entities to respond to and track reports of missing and deceased migrants. Border Patrol has also undertaken various efforts to help respond to migrants who may be in distress. These efforts include placing rescue beacons and 9-1-1 placards in remote areas.
Border Patrol has not collected and recorded, or reported to Congress, complete data on migrant deaths, or disclosed associated data limitations. Specifically, Border Patrol’s fiscal year 2020 report to Congress did not contain complete data
because the agency did not record all available information on migrant deaths from external entities in its system of record, or describe these data limitations in the report. By taking additional steps to ensure that it collects and records available information on migrant deaths, including all known migrant deaths discovered by external entities, and including known migrant deaths and any data limitations in public and Congressional reports, Border Patrol would improve the information it provides to Congress.

Border Patrol collects and reviews information at the field level about its implementation of the Missing Migrant Program. However, it does not have a plan to evaluate the program overall. Border Patrol headquarters uses weekly field reports to monitor the status of the Missing Migrant Program. These reports are positive steps to help the agency monitor field activities. However, Border Patrol could benefit from a more robust evaluation of the impacts of the Missing Migrant Program to reduce the frequency of migrant deaths and strengthen Border Patrol’s efforts to respond to migrants in distress. Developing a plan to evaluate the Missing Migrant Program would better position Border Patrol to View GAO assess its progress in meeting the program’s goals."

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