The Department of Homeland Security was “caught by surprise” by President Donald Trump’s first travel ban executive order, issued a week after he took office, and violated two court orders in preventing some travelers from boarding U.S.-bound flights, the department’s inspector general said in a report Friday.
The long-awaited report found that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security Department agency responsible for securing U.S. borders, was “aggressive in preventing affected travelers” from getting on flights, despite court orders that blocked the travel ban.
The department disputes the inspector general’s finding, saying in a response to the report that the department “did not countenance any violation of a court order” and that “[a]ny implication or statement to the contrary is unfortunate and misleading.”
According to the report, the department “was largely caught by surprise” when the travel ban was signed, with then Secretary John Kelly — now the White House chief of staff — having seen only two drafts in the days before the release.
Customs and Border Protection “had practically no advance notice” of the executive order, when it would become effective, and what it would contain, the inspector general said. The department also “had no opportunity to provide expert input” in the drafting of the ban, and “[n]o policies, procedures, and guidance to the field were developed.”
The ban went into effect while travelers were in the air bound for the U.S., requiring “real-time” policy improvising by Homeland Security, Justice and State departments.
The report cites the border agency’s failures to comply with specific orders by continuing to put affected travelers through secondary inspection.
“That policy led to a large number of travelers being processed and detained for additional, and specific periods of time,” according to the report, which found that Customs and Border Protection generally complied with court directives, “albeit with some delay and confusion.”
The inspector general was also unable to substantiate “allegations of unprofessional conduct” on the part of Customs and Border Protection officers, although the report says one reported incident remains under investigation.