Report on ICE’s Criminal Alien Releases Leaves Much to Be Desired

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a report entitled“ICE’s Release of Immigration Detainees”.

The report purports to be an inquiry into the release of thousands of aliens, including criminals, by the DHS subordinate agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Those releases were exposed by my CIS colleague Jessica Vaughan, who clearly and articulately — and with the use of ICE’s own statistics — made the case for their impropriety. (See “Catch and Release: Interior immigration enforcement in 2013” and the follow-up,“ICE Document Details 36,000 Criminal Alien Releases in 2013”.)

With the departure of the longtime acting Inspector General at DHS, Charles K. Edwards, whose long tenure wasdisastrous and ethically challenged by most accounts, I had hoped that the OIG would make a sharp turnaround and start showing some of the same integrity and plain language they are charged with ensuring in all of the components of DHS.

But I don’t see it in this report. In fact, it reads more like the hard edges have been carefully and methodically sanded away to leave one with the impression that it was simply financial needs that forced hard choices upon the agency. Such a notion beggars belief. I won’t take on the whole report; that’s beyond the parameters of a blog. But I don’t have to in order to make my case. Instead, let me single out two examples that stretch credulity to the breaking point.

Example 1. As noted in the very curious “Technical Modifications” chart, which is attached to the cover letter from the OIG to ICE, it reflects the following final report verbiage: “Only after House appropriations staff informed ICE’s Chief Financial Officer on January 31, 2013, that maintaining 34,000 average daily [detained] population is a statutory requirement did ICE executive leadership realize ICE would need to obtain additional funding to cover the detention.”

How does one politely describe a lie using other words? The statutory mandate for maintenance of 34,000 beds has been in existence for many years and has been the subject of a substantial amount of attention and publicity by the media and various interest groups who oppose it, and raise it at every opportunity in “stakeholder” meetings. How could ICE and DHS leaders not know? What is more, notwithstanding who is in charge, virtually all of ICE’s senior leadership are made aware of it on assuming their posts when they receive incoming briefings by the men and women who run Enforcement and Removal Operations at ICE, who themselves are — and have been — keenly aware of it, because of the pressures it imposes upon them to maintain the required level. I know this from personal experience and observation. Which leads me to question whether the OIG accepted such a fatuous explanation with a wink and a nod, or whether they themselves are so truly clueless as not to know when they are being lied to.

The corollary to this, of course, is that if there was a shortfall in funding sufficient to maintain the required level of detainees on an average daily basis in 2013, it was because ICE and DHS officials willingly and knowingly turned a blind eye toward their fiscal needs when preparing their budget by under-requesting the amount needed for detention bedspace. Why would they do this? Because that has been the tenor since this administration took office. There is a visceral dislike for the notion of detaining illegal aliens, no matter what their offense, and any number of creative mechanisms have been cooked up in order to sidestep the agency’s statutory and congressional budget obligations.

Example 2. On the second full paragraph of page 2, we find the following statement:

Between February 9 and March 1, 2013, Enforcement and Removal Operations field offices released some aliens with criminal convictions whose detention was statutorily required. However, field offices did not release aliens they considered a danger to the community. Given the short timeframe of the releases and the mandate from ICE headquarters to do so, Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Office Directors applied selection criteria and processes appropriately.

Try as I might, I cannot reconcile the sentences above. It’s a rational impossibility. If the agency released certain aliens with criminal convictions who were required to be detained by law, what selection criteria and processes could possibly be “appropriate”? The mind refuses to wrap itself around the jarring dissonance between those diametrically opposed notions.

So, with that I leave you to read the OIG report for yourself, should you wish. I did, and came away with nothing but dismay and disappointment. When is this watchdog going to get its house in order? And quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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