September 12, 2023

DHS lost track of 177,000 illegal immigrants from border surge, inspector general says

Stephen Dinan | The Washington Time

Nearly 20% of newly arrived migrants give bogus addresses to the Border Patrol when they are arrested, an inspector general reported Monday, making it nearly impossible to track them as they spread through the U.S. and confounding efforts to deport them later.

Agents said sometimes the migrants refuse to give an address, and other times they can’t decipher what the address is. Still other times the location is invalid — a church or business location — where they can never be tracked down.

And sometimes migrants will share an address among themselves once they find out agents accept it. That’s led to instances where the same location was used more than 500 times by migrants being caught and released into the country.

“On average, DHS releases more than 60,000 migrants into the United States each month. ICE must be able to locate migrants to enforce immigration laws, including to arrest or remove individuals who are considered potential threats to national security,” the inspector general said. “The notable percentage of missing, invalid, or duplicate addresses on file means DHS may not be able to locate migrants following their release into the United States.”

The bogus addresses are another indicator of the chaos that’s erupted in the immigration system under President Biden.

Agents told the Homeland Security Office of Inspector General that they were too overwhelmed by the sheer size of the migrant surge to press for better addresses. Besides, they said, they are under orders to release migrants even if they give no address at all.

Once released, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is supposed to step in and track the migrants until they go through the immigration process and, if they lose their cases and are ordered removed, ICE is supposed to deport them.

But without valid addresses ICE can’t track them, much less find them for deportation, the audit concluded.

Investigators looked at the early stages of the Biden border surge, from March 2021 to August 2022, and found Homeland Security caught and released roughly 1.2 million migrants.

The audit then looked at a subset of 981,671 releases and found 177,000 instances where the address given was bogus, or where no address was even recorded.

That doesn’t include instances where the migrants lied, or have since moved on from the address they gave.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the migrants released on his watch are being supervised and will be “promptly” removed if they lose their cases.

The inspector general’s report challenges those claims, at least for a large portion of the population.

Investigators looked at 25,000 cases where no address was listed for a migrant and found that more than half of the time those migrants never even checked in with ICE at their destination.

ICE officers said that makes them almost impossible to track until they pop up on the radar because they were arrested for another crime.

One ICE field office told the inspector general that they managed 35,000 post-release cases, which worked out to just 3 minutes per case each year.

There’s also a danger to the migrants themselves, the investigators said.

“DHS may unknowingly release migrants, including children, to potentially unsafe conditions or smuggling operations,” the audit said.

The audit urged Homeland Security to come up with a firm plan to deal with migrants released without valid addresses, and to have ICE officers try to validate the addresses they have been given.

Homeland Security rejected all of the recommendations. The department’s liaison said they believe they have taken some steps to create better coordination, and are already doing what they can to validate addresses.

Besides, said Jim H. Crumpacker, the liaison, requiring ICE to validate where immigrants who are in the country illegally end up would be a poor use of resources.

“The burden is on the noncitizen to provide a valid address,” he said.

He said ICE needs to focus its resources on people “who pose a public safety threat.”

Homeland Security, in a public response, blamed Congress for a broken immigration system and said given that, the inspector general’s report was unrealistic.

“The IG ignores legal and operational constraints that make it impossible for the Department to implement its recommendations. The report also excludes several recent DHS improvements to how we track and update noncitizen addresses across agencies,” the department said.

The inspector general said that without a valid address, ICE will struggle to track down some of those people.

Among the bogus addresses investigators recorded were a Maryland restaurant, a New Jersey car dealership, a bus station in Georgia, and a charity in Illinois.

Indeed, charities have proved to be a major hiccup in the system, as The Washington Times reported last year.

The inspector general found 25 charities whose addresses were listed on 8,600 releases, including some charities listed more than 500 times apiece.

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