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“An Abuse of Parole by Design”: Homeland Republicans Demand Answers from the Biden Administration on CBP One Mass-Parole Scheme

March 23, 2024

WASHINGTON D.C. — This week, House Homeland Security Subcommittees on Border Security and Enforcement and Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, led by Chairmen Clay Higgins (R-LA) and Dan Bishop (R-NC), held a hearing to examine the Biden administration’s use of the CBP One app to mass-parole hundreds of thousands of inadmissible aliens into the United States.

Witness testimony was provided by Adam Hunter, deputy assistant secretary for immigration policy in the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Diane J. Sabatino, the acting executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); Tammy Meckley, associate director for the Immigration Records and Identity Services Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; and Marta Youth, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.

Subcommittee Chairman Bishop highlighted how the expanded use of the app to mass-parole inadmissible aliens into the country is unlawful:

“[W]hat lies behind the app is the same sort of abuse of executive power to make things up, that are not in the law, and use it and give it a role in facilitating mass illegal immigration into the United States. Since January 2023, the Department of Homeland Security has expanded the use of the CBP One application in two ways, specifically to implement a purposeful and determined open-borders agenda. First, inadmissible aliens located in Mexico can use the CBP One app to schedule appointments at the Southwest border.

“Second, inadmissible aliens from certain countries like Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua can participate in the Department’s parole programs that abuse the limits of the Secretary’s parole authority, can use the CBP One app to request permission to fly from the city of origin right into cities throughout the United States, into U.S. airports. To date, more than 459,000 appointments have been scheduled at the Southwest border ports of entries. In 2023 alone, more than 320,000 inadmissible aliens flew into U.S. airports through so-called parole programs using CBP One. These numbers do not even count toward the over 2.8 million illegal aliens crossing our borders nationwide since January of 2023.”

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Higgins highlighted the Committee’s oversight of CBP One:

“Documents received by our Committee show that from January through September 2023, more than 266,000, or nearly 96% of those illegal aliens who scheduled appointments via CBP One, were simply issued a Notice to Appear and paroled into the United States. That means only four percent of illegal alien parolees are detained or removed…Secretary Mayorkas has stated that these border policies are ‘safe, orderly, and humane’ but anyone familiar with the CBP One application knows that his border policies are just a racket designed to expedite illegal immigration into America and leave us at risk.”

Rep. Mike Ezell (R-MS) highlighted how the CBP One process fails to fully vet and screen those CBP is paroling into the country:

“I want to highlight, once again, how this administration is making it much easier for illegal immigrants to enter this country…On this app the immigrants enter a few details before they receive an appointment that is supposed to be a vetting process. Let me describe the details of this process. During this appointment, it has been reported by the Texas Monthly magazine, ‘After arriving for their appointments they are not given an interview or asked no questions on the issues they submitted on the app or about why they are coming to the United States; they are simply released into the country.’ I understand, prior to their appointment, the information submitted is run through the U.S. criminal and national security databases. However, most of these individuals have never lived in the United States, so any crime would not be detected. Additionally, many of the migrants are attempting to come to the U.S. from countries that would never give us their criminal data or from a country that doesn’t even keep a criminal database.

“Being a law enforcement officer my entire life, I’m very familiar with running individuals, having been a chief detective, a sheriff, and a chief of police, and I know the only information that you get out of an NCIC or a criminal history check is something that has been entered into a database…If you could talk to me a little bit about how intensive is this background especially on somebody that’s trying to deceive us or not give us proper information or from a government that does not provide adequate information.”

Sabatino answered, admitting this vetting process is highly dependent on what information is voluntarily provided by partnering countries and any intelligence gathered on the inadmissible aliens––rather than traditional identification documents:

“It really is important about the information sharing that we have, maybe not necessarily with the country the individual’s coming from but with a number of our other foreign partners. It is the information sharing across the hemisphere and globe, frankly, that makes us successful in identifying threats but also there is a layer of partnering with the intelligence community to make sure that we have visibility on trends, identities, or issues and then inform our CBP officers of the process. That’s why getting that advanced information for our officers is so critical that they have the time to actually assess and prepare for the individuals arriving at ports.”

Ezell continued:

“Do you really think we’re getting enough information on this app to be able to really thoroughly vet these people before they get into the country?”

Sabatino failed to answer the question directly:

“I think we’re always looking for more information across all of our operational environments, whether it be trade or passenger operations. I think the more information sharing agreements that we can establish with our international partners, the better off we’ll be.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) raised concerns about an expedited process for inadmissible aliens to enter the country:

“So CBP One app processes the information and expedites people from over 160 countries around the world into our country and you sleep good at night and you’re confident in the CBP One app?”

Sabatino answered, claiming the app does not expedite the processing of inadmissible aliens into the country—even though in her opening statement she claimed the app “streamlines,” “automates,” and makes processing more “efficient”:

“The CBP One app doesn’t expedite individuals, it actually affords advanced information to our officers to do that robust vetting and screening, and the obtaining the photos to do the facial biometric match to our [derogatory photo] index.”

Greene continued:

“So you don’t think already having the information in an app with the photo when the migrants can come and select a date and time to come meet with Border Patrol––that doesn’t expedite the process?”

Sabatino sidestepped the question:

“I think I can highlight a number of instances over the last ten years where migrants showing up at our ports of entry without any advanced information quickly overwhelm our teams and then redirect our teams from doing things like interdicting fentanyl or outbound operations seizing weapons and currency that funds the cartels. We have a lot of different disciplines and responsibilities at the ports of entry without that streamlined modern process, we would be solely focused on processing individuals who were required to afford the opportunity to request asylum at our ports of entry.”