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Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform Committees Question Deficient DHS IG Investigations and Raise Concerns About DHS IG Cuffari’s Leadership

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, each sent letters to Joseph V. Cuffari, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  These letters request information and documents regarding numerous shortcomings in the review by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the deaths of two children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as issues with Mr. Cuffari’s leadership as Inspector General—including his refusal to testify personally before Congress and concerns that he has distanced himself from and delayed critical reports.

Shortcomings in IG Reporting on the Deaths of Children in CBP Custody

In his letter to Inspector General Cuffari, Chairman Thompson identifies numerous shortcomings in two reports issued by the OIG on the deaths two children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old.  Of particular concern is the report on the 8-year-old’s death, which failed to examine key questions regarding whether existing CBP policies were followed in these cases and whether the policies themselves are adequate to guide CBP’s care for children in custody.  Chairman Thompson’s letter also details how “the public summary of the OIG’s report of investigation about the 8-year-old’s death—which is less than a page in length—excludes such crucial details that the information it provides is inaccurate and misleading.”

Chairman Thompson warned that the shortcomings in these reports “raise significant concerns about the thoroughness of the office’s reviews as well as the willingness of the office to conduct in-depth examinations of sensitive topics,” and “give me great concern about the ability of the OIG to carry out significant oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on other important issues, including our nation’s response to the coronavirus.”

Chairman Thompson’s letter seeks written answers by April 9, 2020 from the Inspector General to six questions, including whether the Inspector General will amend the public summary of the report of investigation regarding the death in CBP custody of the 8-year-old to include key information that was excluded from the previous public summary, as well as the commitment of the Inspector General to testify personally at a hearing on this topic.  Currently, he has indicated that he will not testify on this matter for unclear reasons.

Concerns Regarding Inspector General Cuffari’s Leadership

In her letter to Inspector General Cuffari, Chairwoman Maloney requests documents and a briefing based on concerns about actions that Mr. Cuffari has taken since he became Inspector General.

“The DHS IG is a critical federal watchdog, but according to a recent report, during your tenure, the IG is ‘failing to provide basic oversight’ of DHS,” Chairwoman Maloney wrote.  “I am particularly concerned about your refusal to testify personally before Congress, your decision to hire multiple detailees from other agencies to perform work that appears to overlap with the duties of senior IG officials, your actions to delay or distance yourself from crucial reports, and your unwillingness to provide updates on ongoing work.”

Chairwoman Maloney highlighted the Inspector General’s alarmingly slow pace in issuing reports, including several forthcoming reports with no timeline for release on the Department’s processing of asylum seekers, conditions in immigration detention facilities, and secret Border Patrol Facebook groups with offensive posts.

Chairwoman Maloney also raised specific concerns that Inspector General Cuffari delayed an important report on the tracking and reunification of separated immigrant families—which he ultimately released the day before Thanksgiving in 2019—and that Inspector General Cuffari provided inconsistent explanations to the Oversight Committee for the delay.  The Inspector General must be candid and independent in order to fulfill the office’s statutory mission of providing effective oversight and accountability. 

Chairwoman Maloney requests that the Inspector General provide a briefing to the Oversight Committee and provide documents by April 9, 2020.

Click here to read Chairman Thompson’s letter to the Inspector General.

Click here to read Chairwoman Maloney’s letter to the Inspector General.

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