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OIG: ICE Faces Challenges with Detainers; Agency Needs to Streamline, Document Process

ICE’s inability to detain aliens identified through CAP contributes to increased risk those aliens will commit more crimes, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General said in a new report that identified opportunities to streamline CAP processes to achieve greater efficiencies.

ICE uses the Criminal Alien Program (CAP) to identify and arrest aliens charged with or convicted of crimes who are incarcerated in Federal, state, and local prisons and jails, as well as at-large criminal aliens who have avoided identification. ICE refers to state and local law enforcement agencies, prisons, or jails that do not fully cooperate with ICE detainers as “uncooperative jurisdictions.” In fiscal year 2019, ICE arrested 143,100 aliens who were either charged with or convicted of 489,100 various crimes.

The CAP process begins when law enforcement officers arrest and gather information about a person for incarceration. Law enforcement agencies usually fingerprint the person and submit fingerprints (biometric) and personally identifiable (biographic) information to Federal and state databases to check criminal and immigration history. Matches occur when an arrestee’s fingerprints or personally identifiable information correspond to an existing immigration record. In such cases, ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) in Williston, Vermont, is notified, which then alerts either the Pacific Enforcement Response Center (PERC) in Laguna Niguel, California, or the pertinent ICE office.

PERC operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and standardizes alien research and detainer issuance. When a match occurs, PERC or the ICE office issues a detainer to the jail. Along with the detainer, ICE also issues an administrative warrant, containing a determination of probable cause for removability or an order of deportation. A legally authorized immigration officer signs the warrant.

For this FY 2018 to 2019 audit, the DHS OIG objective was to determine whether ICE successfully identified and gained custody of criminal aliens, eliminated research duplication, and ensured officers documented their actions.

Through CAP, ICE can successfully identify aliens charged with or convicted of crimes. However, because ICE relies on cooperation from other law enforcement agencies, it faces challenges apprehending aliens in uncooperative jurisdictions. ICE’s inability to detain aliens identified through CAP who are located in uncooperative jurisdictions, results in increased risk those aliens will commit more crimes. Furthermore, having to arrest “at-large” aliens may put officer, detainee, and public safety at risk and strains ICE’s staffing resources.

OIG also identified opportunities to streamline CAP processes to achieve greater efficiencies. ICE field offices task 160 officers with administrative PERC functions, such as conducting research and issuing detainers, rather than being assigned to enforcement activities and arresting criminal aliens.

Finally, ICE did not consistently document all CAP-related actions because its electronic systems lack required fields and full information sharing. ICE does not require officers to complete certain necessary fields or to track cases of lawful permanent residents (LPR) charged with, but not convicted of, crimes. These deficiencies may harm ICE’s credibility with law enforcement partners and impede effective performance of the CAP officer mission.

ICE concurred with all of OIG’s recommendations and initiated corrective actions to address the findings.

Read the OIG report

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