In a blockbuster report, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) illegally spent emergency humanitarian funds meant for food and medical care for detained migrants on a canine program, dirt bikes, and computer network upgrades. “The GAO report did not indicate how much money was misused, but it said the expenditures were a violation of the law,” The Washington Post reported.
The agency’s lawlessness is exactly what some legislators worried would happen when Congress gave the administration billions in emergency funds with nothing but a “verbal pinky promise” that it would use the funds on detained migrant families. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus tweeted that it and nearly 100 House Democrats “opposed the supplemental bill & warned it did not do enough to hold the Trump admin accountable or stop the rampant human rights abuses at the border. We were correct. This is outrageous.”
The GAO’s report said that some of CBP’s purchases correctly fell into either the consumable goods or medical care categories, including food, hygiene products, baby supplies, masks, and ointments. However, other items clearly did not fall into either category, the GAO said.
“Such obligations include supplies and services for CBP’s canine program; items in support of the annual CBP-wide vaccine program for CBP personnel” … hold on a fucking second, let’s just stop here for a moment and sit with the fact that CBP was spending humanitarian funds on its own employee vaccine program as it also refused to vaccinate detained families against the flu, including ignoring a CDC recommendation to give these kids their shots. What. The. Actual. Fuck.
In another example of CBP’s lawlessness, the GAO found the agency spent humanitarian funds on “computer network upgrades to analyze factual information in support of CBP’s border operations,” as well “as printers, security camera systems, and speakers. CBP did not—nor did it attempt to—make any connection between these obligations and the consumables and medical care line item appropriation,” the report said.
This would not even be the first time this year that the GAO has issued a report that merits the defunding of the CBP. In April, it released a report finding that the administration wasted nearly $70 million over a period of five months to jail fewer than 70 people at a tent city in Tornillo, Texas last year—including shelling out over $5 million for hundreds of thousands of meals that were never actually ordered because there were no detainees.
“Based on our analysis, CBP paid approximately $6.7 million for 75 unarmed contract security guards on-site at the Tornillo facility at all times to report any situations with individuals held in the facility and provide facility and perimeter security, though the facility had an approximate average daily population of 28 adults,” that report said. There’s a reason why CBP has a long history of corruption. Nothing has changed. If anything, it’s only becoming more bold in its flouting of the law.
“Congress provided this additional funding for the primary purpose of improving conditions for migrants at the border and ensuring migrants were receiving adequate healthcare after the deaths of multiple children in custody," House Homeland Security committee chair Bennie Thompson said according to NBC News. "Instead of helping migrants and improving conditions on the ground, CBP then broke the law by spending this taxpayer money on things that were not authorized—such as ATVs, dirt bikes, and computer systems."
It’s long past time to put an end to this breaking of U.S. law and clamp down on this agency’s funding. There’s nothing radical about defunding its abuses—what’s radical is how long we keep letting them get away with it.