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Washington D.C.
Friday, July 19, 2024

ICE Risk Assessment Process Not Consistent Says OIG

A report has found that ICE’s risk classification assessment process was not consistently used to prevent the release of high-risk individuals.

A report released June 12, 2024 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office Of Inspector General (OIG) found that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers did not always perform risk classification assessments (RCAs) to ensure they appropriately detained or released noncitizens held in custody.

Key Takeaways:

  • ICE failed to conduct risk classification assessments for 33% of detained noncitizens
  • 9 out of 25 ERO field offices completed less than 75% of required RCAs
  • 10 field offices completed 90% or more required RCAs
  • ICE released 3% of noncitizens recommended for detainment following RCA process
  • 328 of those released against recommendations were classified as a high risk to public safety
  • 11,608 were classified as a high flight risk
  • ICE officers and supervisors failed to provide sufficient justification for release against RCA recommendations in 71% of sample cases

ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) manages and oversees immigration detention, and is responsible for enforcing immigration laws, which include arresting, detaining, and releasing or removing noncitizens. ERO manages over 8,600 employees across 25 field offices (areas of responsibility) throughout the country. According to ICE, it processed a total of 273,220 noncitizens in fiscal year (FY) 2023, and received funding to support 25,000 detention beds, on average, each day. 

The report notes that despite being responsible for completing RCAs for detained noncitizens, ICE officers failed to conduct a risk assessment for 33% (79,977) of 244,376 detained noncitizens in FY 2023. This is an improvement, however, on the numbers in FY 2022, in which RCAs were not conducted for 43% (129,250) of 302,758 detained noncitizens.

Furthermore, the OIG found that RCA completion rates varied significantly by ERO area of responsibility, with 9 of the 25 areas of responsibility completing less than 75 percent of the required RCAs in FY 2023, whilst 10 completed more than 90 percent of the required RCAs.

RCA completion rates by ERO Area of Responsibility

Of the 25 areas of responsibility, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA and Boston MA were among the 10 areas with a completion rate of 90% or more. Newark, NJ and New York, NY topped the table at 100%. In contrast, Houston, TX (31.1%), Seattle, WA (29.4%) and Denver, CO (24.7%), were the worst performing offices. 

As per the report: The understanding of Officers in areas with higher RCA completion rates, such as San Antonio, was that all noncitizens in their custody must have an RCA. Conversely, officers in areas with lower RCA completion rates, such as Houston, claimed each field office has the authority to “do things their way.”

Justifications for Decisions

The report states that ICE officials did not always provide detailed justifications when deviating from the RCAs recommendation to detain noncitizens. ​​From FY 2022 through FY 2023, ICE released 11,754 (3 percent) of the 339,478 noncitizens that the RCA recommended be detained, with 328 of these noncitizens classified as a high risk to public safety, and 11,608 being a high flight risk.

From its statistical sample of the 11,754 records for noncitizens released contrary to RCA recommendation, 190 of 266 records (71%) showed ICE officers and supervisors failed to provide sufficient justification for releasing a noncitizen whose RCA recommended detainment.

Lack of Oversight

The OIG cited ICEs lack of “oversight to ensure consistent application of the risk classification assessment process” as the reason for these occurrences, adding that ICE had previously assigned an office to oversee the process, and failed to reassign the responsibility when that office disbanded in January 2017.

The report also states that ICE has not developed a policy to prompt officers to complete RCAs in accordance with the Executive Associate Director’s message, and as a result, cannot ensure its custody decisions are informed, consistent, and transparent, leading to potential scenarios where noncitizens who pose a risk to public safety being released.

In response, the OIG made two recommendations. ICE concurred with both.

Recommendation 1:

The Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations assign an office responsible for managing and overseeing the RCA process.

Recommendation 2:

The Executive Associate Director of ERO is to establish and implement a formal policy and procedure for using the RSA process. This is to include requirements for when officers should apply the process and how to sufficiently document their justifications to ensure the reasons behind their decisions are clear, especially when deviating from the RCAs recommended decision. 

In response to these recommendations, ICE confirms that ICE ERO Law Enforcement Systems and Analysis will review existing guidance and practices to determine areas where additional resources, oversight, and updating is required. Implementing more formal RCAs and reviews, as appropriate.

In addition, ICE ERO Headquarters Field Operations will develop formal guidance and procedures to ensure consistency in the RCA process and strengthen justifications for decisions. The estimated completion date for these actions is November 29, 2024.

Following its findings, the OIG concluded that ICE officials did not consistently use the RCA process or act according to its recommendations, adding that without a policy and the appropriate oversight for the RCA process, ICE cannot ensure its officers will make informed, consistent, and transparent custody decisions that prevent the release of noncitizens who pose a potential risk to public safety, which is what the process was designed for.

Following its recommendations and the subsequent response from ICE, the OIG classifies ICEs proposed actions as responsive and will close the recommendation when ICE provides documentation that it has developed and implemented formal guidance and procedures.

Read the full report.

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Rob Phillimore
Rob Phillimore
An ambitious and enthusiastic weaver of words with a curious mind and passion for continued learning and development, Rob has written content for a diverse range of clients, working in STEM sectors such as space, aerospace, aviation, finance and software development; covering a variety of topics, from AI and cybersecurity to digital transformation to sustainability.

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