ICE failed to ensure migrants were tested for COVID-19 before boarding domestic flights: DHS OIG

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not adequately followed procedures to ensure migrants encountered at the southern border are screened for COVID-19 before boarding domestic flights, according to a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). 19 were tested. Report.

The IG report said it identified “numerous instances” where ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) “could not provide evidence that single adults, family units and [unaccompanied children] were tested for COVID-19 prior to carriage on domestic commercial flights,” the report said.


ICE uses flights to transport migrants from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody to other facilities (or to health and social services for unaccompanied children) across the country, and may include ground transit, charter flights, or domestic flights. Single adults are held by ERO in 127 detention centers across the country before being either deported or released to the United States

“A migrant’s journey, which by definition involves crossing an international border from a foreign country, may involve multiple transfers between multiple federal agencies and agencies within the United States,” the report said. “Migrants traveling on domestic commercial flights while in DHS custody may be in close proximity to other migrants and the general public.”

Although subject to a number of requirements for testing, IG found that ERO did not ensure all migrants were tested before being transported on domestic commercial flights.

“This happened because ERO’s policies are unclear and ERO has no controls to enforce them. Also, some of these policies do not apply to [unaccompanied children]who are not being held in ICE facilities,” the report said.

The audit accused ERO of having incomplete records of migrant transports, particularly for unaccompanied children. The report found that in the case of unaccompanied children, ERO officials shifted responsibility to health and social services, and also did not record which children HHS had tested — instead, they used word of mouth to determine which migrants were positive.

In single adults, in a sample of 24 migrants boarding a domestic flight, IG found that ERO could not demonstrate that 11 migrants had received a test within three days of transport. For UACs, the report said that on a day in September, ERO ferried 45 children to HHS facilities on domestic commercial flights without verifying that they had been tested for COVID-19.


“These practices risk exposing other migrants, ERO staff and the general public to COVID-19. It is imperative that ERO establish and enforce policies and procedures to mitigate public health concerns related to COVID-19 or other future pandemics,” the report said.

The IG issued a number of recommendations, including more detailed coordination between DHS agencies and more detailed and clearer testing policies and controls to ensure employees and contractors comply with existing testing requirements. It also recommends that authorities keep “complete and accurate” COVID-19 testing and transportation records for migrants.

In a response to the OIG, ICE said it “agrees with the intent of the OIG’s findings and is considering a number of proposed actions regarding testing of family units without citizenship or unaccompanied children that have already been addressed.”

“ICE is committed to ensuring that non-citizens in its care live in a safe, secure and humane environment and with appropriate detention conditions,” Acting Chief of Staff Jason Houser said in a written response. “As such, ICE has implemented, executed and ensured health protocols and testing procedures for COVID-19 in accordance with the CDC’s guidance on management of COVID-19 in correctional and detention facilities.”


The report comes as the Biden administration has been blocked from ending the Title 42 public health expulsions. The order, which has been in force since March 2020, is being used to expel a large proportion of migrants at the border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC had said it was appropriate to end the order, but a federal judge sided with a Republican lawsuit and issued a restraining order. The lawsuit states that ending the order would exacerbate the massive crisis at the border and increase health care and education costs for states involved in the lawsuit.

Leave a Comment