Border agency provided inconsistent medical care to immigrants in custody, says watchdog

Washington (CNN) — The Customs and Border Protection Office of U.S (CBP) did not provide constant attention to immigrants in custody and, in some cases, did not adequately report the deaths, according to a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The report is the latest in a series of findings describing inadequate detention conditions in 2019, when a surge in immigrants on the U.S. border and Mexico it overwhelmed government facilities and ultimately resulted in Congress appropriating additional funds. GAO said its review was prompted in part by questions about CBP health care after three children died in custody between December 2018 and May 2019.

While CBP took steps to improve custodial healthcare, the agency “has not consistently implemented improved healthcare policies and procedures,” according to the report. For example, during visits to CBP facilities in November 2019 in South Texas, GAO discovered that while some facilities conducted health interviews and medical evaluations, others did not.

CBP also decided not to offer influenza vaccines despite a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but did not document how the decision was made, the GAO said.

In a statement to CNN, CBP said it “takes its role in providing care and ensuring the health, safety and well-being of every adult and child in its custody very seriously,” adding that the agency “is committed to improving their care. and custody of adults and children and requested supplemental emergency funds to support these operations along the southwest border in order to do so. ”

The report describes insufficient oversight and insufficient reporting mechanisms to track deaths in custody. “CBP does not have reliable information on deaths, serious injuries and suicide attempts and has not consistently reported deaths of people in custody to Congress,” the report notes. The GAO review found that 31 people died in custody along the southern border between fiscal years 2014 to 2019, but CBP documented only 20 deaths in the reports.

The government watchdog also included details about the misuse of health care funds, following a report released by the office last month with similar findings.

Supplemental funds provided to administration Trump Amid the crisis on the southern border, they included approximately US $ 112 million for “consumables and medical care.” As of May, 78% of those funds have been obligated, according to the GAO report. To that end, the government watchdog discovered that CBP violated the appropriations law when it used some of the funds for purposes other than those originally intended, such as computer network updates.

Among the factors that contributed to those violations, GAO said there was insufficient guidance for CBP offices and components on how the money would be used, as well as lack of oversight.

CBP defended its spending in its statement, saying that “only a very small percentage of these obligations were incorrectly categorized.”

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