Federal Watchdog Outlines Raft of Problems With Immigration Enforcement
Federal Watchdog Outlines Raft of Problems With Immigration Enforcement

By Zachary Stieber

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is failing to enforce immigration laws, the agency’s inspector general said in three new reports.

Hundreds of individuals discovered to be illegally in the United States at an international airport were released due to a lack of bed space at local facilities or insufficient funds for immigration officers to detain them at the airport, according to one of the documents.

From Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2023, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released at least 383 of these individuals due to these problems, investigators with the DHS Office of Inspector General found. Of those, 44 percent did not return to the airport for flights back to their home countries.

CBP is supposed to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if it cannot immediately place an illegal immigrant on a removal flight, but ICE frequently rebuffed requests for help, in part because its local facility lacked available beds to keep the immigrants overnight, according to the probe. CBP can also pay overtime to its officers to keep the inadmissible immigrants at the airport overnight, but the agency said it needs at least $2,000 per night and only has a daily overtime budget of $1,500.

“Without a coordinated approach between CBP and ICE, CBP will continue to release inadmissible travelers, many of whom do not return as required for removal flights,” the watchdog stated.

CBP officials are required to issue notices to appear in court when releasing illegal immigrants but did not issue the notices to 77 of the 168 immigrants that were released, investigators also found.

“This occurred because CBP did not have an effective process to track which inadmissible travelers failed to return for their removal flights,” the inspector general said.

The name of the airport was redacted.

The inspector general recommended that ICE coordinate with CBP to establish an effective approach to the situation, that CBP make an inventory of illegal immigrants who are released, and that the agency issue notices to appear in court as required.

The DHS concurred with the recommendations and said it has already started trying to fix the issues.

CBP and other DHS offices “understand the importance of removal, refusing entry, or repatriating inadmissible travelers encountered at the [redacted] international airport [redacted] and remain committed to ensuring compliance with related policies and procedures,” Jim Crumpacker, a DHS official, told the inspector general in a response to the report.

ICE Fails to Use Risk Assessments

ICE officers regularly did not perform risk assessments when deciding to release illegal immigrants, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari said in another report.

A top ICE official said that officers must complete the assessments for detained illegal immigrants unless they are going to be removed from the country within five days. In fiscal year 2023, though, the assessments were only conducted for 67 percent of detained noncitizens. In fiscal year 2022, the assessments were only completed for 57 percent of the illegal immigrants.

The inspector general also found that even when assessments were performed, illegal immigrants were sometimes released even if they were supposed to remain in detention.

Of the 339,478 noncitizens released from the fall of 2021 through the fall of 2023, ICE released three percent even though, per the assessments, the illegal immigrants should not have been released. Many of those individuals were designated as a high flight risk, while the rest were designated a high risk to public safety.

An analysis of a sample of records from the cases showed that ICE officials sometimes did not provide sufficient justification for the releases. In one record, for instance, an officer wrote that the person was being released without any additional details.

“Without sufficiently documenting justifications for deviating from … recommendations, ICE cannot ensure transparency in its detention decision-making process—especially when releasing noncitizens whom the [assessment] determines may pose a threat to public safety or might be a flight risk,” Mr. Cuffari said.

The inspector general recommended ICE assign an office to oversee the assessment process and implement a policy for how to use the assessments, including requiring that officers justify in written form why they’re deviating from the assessment recommendations.

The DHS concurred with the recommendations. It said it is reviewing existing policy on oversight and may update it, and is creating formal guidance for how to apply the assessments.

Screening Gaps

Under federal law, immigrants who cross the border illegally can apply for asylum if they have a fear of persecution based on race or other factors if they return to their home country. After passing the screening and being granted entry, the individual has a year to formally apply for asylum.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is supposed to verify the identity of each asylum applicant and determine if the applicants are eligible for asylum. Applicants must be adjudicated within 180 days.

However, more than half of asylum applications filed between October 2017 and March 2023 were not adjudicated within that timeframe, the DHS inspector general found.

The USCIS took up to five years to adjudicate cases but did not perform any interim checks between initial screenings and follow-up screenings conducted shortly before asylum interviews, the watchdog also learned.

Some 20,000 applicants who screened favorably generated a hit, or a record from a security or background check system, in an independent analysis conducted by the inspector general, indicating the USCIS could discover issues if it performed interim screening.

The watchdog also learned that CBP sometimes lets drivers into the country without vetting them because agents feel overwhelmed by the volume of traffic, that CBP cannot access some information from other agencies’ databases, and that CBP officials have not figured out how to train the agency’s facial recognition software on passengers.

“CBP is at risk of allowing criminals, suspected terrorists, or other nefarious actors to enter the United States,” the watchdog stated.

It issued recommendations to fix the problems, including implementing interim screenings.

The DHS agreed with all of the recommendations and said some of them have already been implemented.

Discover more from USNN World News

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

USNN World News (USNN) USNN World News Corporation is a media company consisting of a series of sites specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, local,...