Thousands Mistakenly Allowed Past U.S. Border, Source Says

CNN, November 5, 2007

Government watchdogs have found that thousands of people who shouldn’t have been admitted to the United States were mistakenly allowed in last year because of security lapses at legal border crossings.

The number of inadmissible aliens who managed to enter through official ports of entry in 2006 was not disclosed in Monday’s report from the Government Accountability Office.

However, a source who has seen a full version of the report, in which those statistics were included, put the total at 21,000.

The author of the GAO report, Richard Stana, said most of those who were wrongly allowed to enter were economic migrants who did not present a security risk.

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Understaffing and turnover at Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the nation’s 326 land, sea and air ports of entry, has contributed to the problem, according to the GAO report. However, investigators also cited weak management controls and complacency and inattentiveness by some officers.

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The Customs and Border Protection’s stance is that at busy border crossings, it has to balance security with commerce.

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Monday’s report “confirms that Customs and Border Protection must do a better job of recruiting new officers and retaining and training those already on the job,” said Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

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The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 17,600 Customs and Border Protection officers manning ports of entry, said the agency is understaffed and poorly managed and officers are overworked and not adequately trained.

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