A new report from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General found that ICE deportation officers are so overloaded that they lose track of aliens that have been released pending their deportation, including some posing national security risks. Under the Obama Administration, deportation officers based in Washington, D.C., handled more than 10,000 released deportable aliens per person on average, while those in Atlanta averaged more than 5,000 released to the streets. Due to caseload and lack of direction, “ICE is almost certainly not deporting all the aliens who could be deported and will likely not be able to keep up with growing numbers of deportable aliens,” the report said.
A 2001 Supreme Court decision limits the length of time that ICE can detain aliens who are subject to a deportation order but cannot be deported. These aliens are released but assigned to officers who are supposed to monitor their whereabouts. Should deportation become feasible – for example, if an intransigent country accepts their repatriation – the officer is responsible for taking the alien into custody pending deportation. Other ICE officers oversee aliens held in detention and those released temporarily for a hearing in immigration court but their effort is much less complicated than monitoring released aliens.
The officers’ caseload increased with the surge of Central American minors and family units over the last several years. In fiscal year 2014, the Border Patrol apprehended nearly 500,000 alien along the southwest border. The increase translated into more aliens that ICE must detain, deport, and supervise, the report said. The Obama Administration decided to move ICE officers to the border to help with the surge, which further overloaded interior deportation offices.
The IG found that the caseloads of deportation officers (DOs) supervising released aliens were much larger than those of officers working with detained aliens. On average, those working with non-detained cases were responsible for between 1,700 and 10,000 aliens per DO, compared to averages ranging from 65 to 110 aliens for those working on detainee cases. Irrespective of the numbers, the workloads should have been reversed under an effective deportation strategy given the complexities facing non-detainee officers.
The IG uncovered other problems. The report said, “(u)nless they verify the status of immigration proceedings, ICE DOs may not know about aliens who fail to report for court appearances and, thus, whose names should be forwarded to the fugitive operations unit. Without checking on criminal history, DOs may be unaware of aliens who have committed crimes and should be detained.”
Citing a “particularly troubling example of overworked staff,” the report said, “a DO at one field office we visited reported that a heavy workload limited oversight of non-detained aliens in that geographic area that ICE had flagged as risks to national security. In addition to oversight of these aliens, the DO supervised about 6,000 juvenile aliens, 150 of whom were detained; the DO said managing the detained juveniles took up most of the workday, including many hours of overtime. Without adequate oversight, this ICE DO may be unaware of missed check-in appointments and missed court dates and may have inaccurate information on the whereabouts of the non-detained aliens deemed to be a risk.”
ICE accepted all IG recommendations for improvement, including adjusting its caseload, providing more guidance to officers, and finding better ways to force intransigent countries to repatriate their citizens. The latter point was an element in the President’s executive order earlier this year and some progress has been made with certain countries since then.
Read more in The Washington Times.
Updated: Thu, May 4th 2017 @ 5:15pm EDT