Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 24, 2006

DHS IG probes detention and removal operations

Filed under: Border Security — by Christian Beckner on May 24, 2006

The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security released a report a few days ago that takes a close look at the detention and removal system for illegal immigrants, and the challenges that it’s faced in the past few years. There’s been a lot of attention paid to this issue in the last year, as “catch and release” has entered the homeland security lexicon, but there’s been a shortage of hard facts on the system’s shortcomings. This report redresses this shortage, and provides a wealth of data on the detention and removal system, and in doing so, shows why this issue is critically important and requires sustained attention.

For me, this is the most important paragraph in the report:

Illegal Aliens from Special Interest Countries and State Sponsors of Terrorism Countries. A significant number of OTMs that are apprehended and released each year originate from SIC and SST. From FY 2001 through the first half of FY 2005, 91,516 SIC and SST aliens were apprehended of which 45,000 (49%) were later released. It is not known exactly how many of these SIC and SST aliens were ultimately issued final orders of removal and were actually removed since such data is not tracked by DRO. However, assuming SIC and SST aliens are being removed at the same rate as other apprehended and released aliens, 85 percent of the SIC and SST aliens released who eventually receive final orders of removal will abscond. Table 6 provides a breakdown of OTMs from SIC and SST countries that were apprehended and released from FY 2001 through the first 6 months of FY 2005.

This is absolutely unacceptable, and probably the most significant terrorism-related vulnerability in our immigration and border security system today. To its credit, DHS has taken action to address this issue over the past six months, and I hope that the Inspector General will continue to monitor the progress made in fulfilling the stated objectives of ending “catch and release” for OTMs.

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