House Oversight GOP investigating DHS efforts to ‘impede’ agency watchdog probes related to southern border

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Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are investigating alleged efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to obstruct oversight probes related to the southern border led by the Office of Inspector General—specifically referring to a memo advising DHS employees on how to avoid turning over documents to the agency’s watchdog. 

In a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the GOP lawmakers raised concerns about the internal memo which, they say, allegedly advised employees “on how to impede OIG investigations.”

“We write to investigate efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to obstruct oversight by the DHS Office of Inspector General. According to recent reports, DHS is advising employees on how to impede OIG oversight, including how to avoid turning over documents and systems access to the OIG,” they wrote.

The lawmakers state that if the reports are “true,” then “DHS leadership is deliberately undermining the OIG’s mission,” which is to “provide independent oversight to promote excellence, integrity and accountability within DHS.”

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The memo the GOP lawmakers were referring to was allegedly circulated among U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees in preparation for a meeting with DHS OIG personnel.

“Essentially, the memo encouraged CBP employees to resist the OIG’s request for access to CBP systems. More alarming, CBP’s memo included flawed legal analyses—apparently sanctioned by DHS Office of General Counsel—to justify withholding information from the OIG,” they wrote.

“This memo undermines the OIG’s statutory mandate to have ‘timely access to all records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, or other materials,’ from DHS’s programmatic components,” they continued.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill, April 28, 2022.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill, April 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The GOP lawmakers noted that the DHS secretary “may only prevent the OIG from pursuing oversight in very limited situations to preserve national security where such an exception is issued by the Secretary in writing and reported to Congress.”

“We have received no report that you have invoked such an exception during your tenure,” they wrote.

DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari is currently auditing and investigating the “effects” of the Biden administration’s border policies, which Republican lawmakers wrote have “created a dangerous, chaotic and inhumane border.”

“We are concerned DHS’s efforts to obstruct OIG oversight is targeted to CBP program areas,” they wrote, noting that CBP employees are on the “frontlines of the border crisis.”

“Therefore, DHS OIG must have access to these employees and CBP systems so it can accurately assess the Biden administration’s decisions and execution of the law regarding our southern border,” they wrote.

A Customs and Border Protection sign in Clint, Texas, on June 25, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A Customs and Border Protection sign in Clint, Texas, on June 25, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“In light of the growing catastrophe along the southern border, DHS’s obstruction is particularly troubling,” they continued. “Rather than committing time and resources to deny information to the OIG, DHS should be dedicating resources to protecting the southern border.

The lawmakers requested documents and communications about DHS’s “efforts to deny the DHS OIG access to information needed to conduct its audits and investigations.”

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By Aug. 12, lawmakers requested copies of memos transmitted from DHS headquarters that advise personnel on how to “interact” with the OIG; drafts of any memos; documents and communications related to the OIGs office; and documents between CBP personnel referring or relating to interacting with the OIG.

A Homeland Security vehicle in Lower Manhattan on Oct. 5, 2016.

A Homeland Security vehicle in Lower Manhattan on Oct. 5, 2016. (iStock)

House Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer, R-Ky., and more than a dozen Republicans signed onto the letter, including Reps. Jody Hice, Jim Jordan, Nancy Mace, Andy Biggs and Byron Donalds.

DHS did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Cuffari was confirmed by the Senate as the Homeland Security inspector general in 2019. He served more than 40 years in the U.S. Air Force, on active duty, in the Reserves, and in the Arizona Air National Guard.

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