Immigration Enforcement:

DHS Has Incorporated Immigration Enforcement Objectives and Is Addressing Future Planning Requirements

GAO-05-66: Published: Oct 8, 2004. Publicly Released: Nov 8, 2004.

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The former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had five interior (non-border-related) immigration enforcement objectives to address federal immigration law violations: identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States; deter and dismantle alien trafficking and smuggling; respond to community reports and complaints about illegal immigration; minimize immigration benefit fraud; and block employers' access to undocumented workers. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the INS and other federal agencies began merging their law enforcement functions into the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security. Congress sought information on how the newly formed ICE was addressing legacy INS's immigration enforcement objectives. GAO addressed the following questions: (1) What is the status of ICE's efforts to incorporate legacy INS's interior immigration enforcement objectives? (2) How is ICE developing budget needs, workforce plans, and performance measures for immigration-related objectives?

Though ICE does not have a formal, distinct interior enforcement strategy, all of the objectives contained in the legacy INS interior enforcement strategy have been incorporated within a broader mission aimed at strengthening homeland security through joint customs and immigration investigations. Two ICE offices--the Office of Investigations (OI) and the Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO)--have responsibility for addressing these objectives. Through six enforcement units in four operating divisions, OI is primarily responsible for addressing the following legacy INS objectives: deterring, dismantling, and diminishing the smuggling and trafficking of aliens; responding to community complaints about illegal immigration; minimizing immigration benefit fraud; and removing employers' access to undocumented workers. DRO is primarily responsible for identifying and removing criminal aliens, with some assistance from OI. DRO has begun to align its strategic goals with its budget requests and workforce plans in order to determine what resources it needs in fiscal year 2005 and beyond. DRO is also developing performance measures to help identify future workforce plans and budget requests. For example, DRO is measuring the percentage of the fugitive alien population that is apprehended annually to determine whether resource levels are adequate. DRO officials said that until performance measures have been developed for all activities, it will be difficult to determine which efforts are most effective. To develop its budget request and workforce plans for fiscal year 2007 and beyond, OI field offices conducted baseline threat assessments to identify risks--such as the presence of a business that transports biological materials and may employ terrorists--on a regional basis. Related performance measures have been developed, but are not in use, therefore, they will not be used for workforce planning in ICE's fiscal year 2006 budget request. OI's fiscal year 2005 budget request was based on other considerations, such as the need to monitor foreign visa holders. The Department of Homeland Security reviewed a draft of this report and had no official comments.

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