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Nearly 5,000 Illegal Immigrants Absconded or Committed Crimes under ICE’s Supervision

Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claims few illegal immigrants commit crimes or flee by participating in their alternative to detention program, a recent audit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) found ICE lacks the performance metrics to determine whether the program has actually been effective.

ICE’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) offers an alternative to detention. ICE is responsible for tracking the more than 1.8 million aliens in immigration removal proceedings. However, because ICE’s budget only funds 34,000 detention beds, ICE cannot detain all aliens who are waiting to appear in immigration courts or waiting for removal.

ISAP was created in 2003 to solve this problem. Under the program, ICE supervises aliens it has released from detention, and monitors them electronically. As a condition of release, ICE requires aliens to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings and comply with removal orders from the United States.

ICE claims the program is effective, reporting that the rates at which ISAP participants absconded and were arrested for criminal acts declined each year between 2010 and 2012. However, after changing the program to no longer supervise some participants through their immigration proceedings, ICE never updated its performance metrics.

As a result, ICE did not account for former ISAP program participants who had absconded or were arrested for criminal acts after their participation in the program ended.

According to the IG’s audit report, failure to update the performance metrics has made it impossible to determine “whether transitory participation in ISAP contributes over time to reducing the rate at which aliens abscond or are arrested for criminal acts.”

In reviewing the rate at which individuals in ISAP have absconded or committed criminal acts, the IG discovered 2,010 program participants were arrested for committing crimes between 2010 and 2012. Moreover, during that same period, 2,760 aliens absconded while enrolled in the program — 2010 (927), 2011 (982), and 2012 (851).

The IG determined ICE cannot definitively determine whether “ISAP has reduced the rate at which aliens, who were once in the program but who are no longer participating, have absconded or been arrested for criminal acts.”

In addition, the IG determined ICE does not have sufficient resources to re-detain non-compliant participants who willfully violate ISAP’s terms of supervision. ICE said “dedicating funding for approximately 150 to 200 detention beds nationally, to re-detain program violators as necessary, would discourage willful noncompliance.”

President Obama’s original DHS budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 included a reduction of -3,461 detention beds, or a -10.2 percent reduction to ICE’s detention capacity; as compared to fiscal year 2014 enacted levels. Obama’s FY 2015 DHS budget also called for a -2 percent reduction in ICE’s investigative capacity; a nearly -18 percent reduction of ICE’s transportation capacity; and a reduction of -12 percent to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations, including a more than -30 percent reduction in flight hours.

Beyond these proposed resource reductions, further analysis of Obama’s FY 2015 DHS budget request revealed the following performance impacts, according to the House Committee on Appropriations’ FY 2015 DHS budget report:

  • An inability of ICE to sustain detention capacity, which would prevent ICE from fully complying with statutory mandates to detain criminal immigration law violators and detaining all other aliens in removal proceedings who are likely to abscond or pose threats  to community safety;
  • A significant deterioration of ICE’s capacity to investigate severe transnational crimes, such as illegal weapons exportation, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, intellectual property theft and cyber crime, including child exploitation; and no investigative or financial support to long-standing, authorized programs that address missing and exploited children.

Although ICE developed a Risk Classification Assessment to assist its release and custody classification decisions, the IG determined the “tool is time consuming, resource intensive, and not effective in determining which aliens to release or under whatconditions.”

Moreover, the IG believes the RCA does not improve field office release decisions. For example, of the 228,095 RCA decisions made between July 30, 2012, and December 31, 2013, the RCA made no recommendation for 41,971, or 18.4 percent of cases. In addition, of the 228,095 RCA recommendations between July 30, 2012, and December 31, 2013, ERO officers overrode 49,861, or 21.9 percent of the RCA recommendations.

In turn, the IG recommended ICE revise the RCA tool, as well as develop and implement performance metrics to evaluate ISAP effectiveness. ICE concurred with the recommendations.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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