Sex Offenders:

ICE Could Better Inform Offenders It Supervises of Registration Responsibilities and Notify Jurisdictions when Offenders Are Removed

GAO-13-832: Published: Sep 12, 2013. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 2013.

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What GAO Found

On the basis of GAO's analysis of a representative sample of 131 alien sex offenders under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) supervision, GAO estimates that as of September 2012, 72 percent of alien sex offenders were registered, 22 percent were not required to register, and 5 percent did not register but should have. According to officials, offenders were not required to register for various reasons, such as the offense not requiring registration in some states. Of the 6 offenders in GAO's sample that should have registered, officials from ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ICE-ERO) field offices informed 4 of their registration requirements. However, officials at some of these field offices identified several reasons why they did not ensure that these offenders actually registered. For example, the offender may have moved and no longer resided in the area of responsibility for that particular field office. ICE had not informed the remaining 2 offenders of their registration requirements.

Alien sex offenders are not consistently informed of potential registration requirements, and relevant jurisdiction officials--that is, state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registry and law enforcement officials--are not consistently notified when an offender is removed from the country or released. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (SORNA) and other federal laws identify when sex offenders and relevant jurisdiction officials should be notified. However, the agencies that have these notification responsibilities are limited in their ability to provide information to and about alien sex offenders, in part because they do not know when ICE-ERO will release or remove these offenders. ICE-ERO has a procedure in place to inform alien sex offenders who are being removed about potential registration requirements, but not alien sex offenders who are being released into the community under supervision, primarily because ICE-ERO is uncertain whether it has a responsibility to do so. ICE-ERO also does not consistently notify relevant jurisdiction officials when an alien sex offender is removed or released under supervision, for similar reasons. However, officials from the Department of Justice's Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office said that state correctional facilities, in the interest of public safety, have notification processes in place, even though sometimes not required to do so. ICE-ERO is reviewing options for informing alien sex offenders under supervision about their potential registration requirements and notifying jurisdictions when alien sex offenders are released under supervision, but has not established a deadline for completing its review, which is inconsistent with project management standards. Without a deadline, it will be difficult to hold ICE-ERO accountable for providing these notifications. Further, ICE-ERO does not plan to notify relevant jurisdictions when an alien sex offender is removed. Providing such notification could help jurisdictions ensure public safety and avoid unnecessarily spending resources trying to locate the offender.

This is a public version of a sensitive security report GAO issued in August 2013, which also included information about steps ICE has taken to determine its responsibility for informing alien sex offenders of their notification requirements.

Why GAO Did This Study

ICE-ERO uses orders of supervision to release from custody criminal aliens--including sex offenders--who have been ordered to be removed from the United States, but cannot be removed for various reasons or detained indefinitely under U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In July 2006, SORNA was enacted, which established minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification. Congressional requesters asked GAO to assess registration of alien sex offenders. This report addresses the extent to which alien sex offenders (1) under ICE-ERO order of supervision are registered and (2) who are removed or released under ICE-ERO order of supervision are informed of registration requirements and relevant jurisdiction officials are notified about these offenders. GAO analyzed a representative sample of 131 of 1,309 alien sex offenders who were under orders of supervision as of September 2012. GAO also interviewed officials from ICE-ERO, the SMART Office, and other relevant federal, state registry and local law enforcement agencies.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends, among other things, that ICE-ERO (1) set a deadline for its review of options for providing notifications to and about alien sex offenders under supervision and (2) in consultation with SMART and others, consider options for notifying jurisdictions about removed offenders. ICE agreed with the recommendations.

For more information, contact Eileen R. Larence at (202) 512-8777 or larencee@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Enforcement and Removal Operations Directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE-ERO) is responsible for the identification, apprehension, detention, and removal of removable aliens. ICE-ERO prioritizes the removal of convicted criminals, among other groups. However, there are circumstances in which criminal aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States--including those convicted of a sex offense--cannot be removed and must live in the country under ICE-ERO orders of supervision. We reported in August 2014 that ICE-ERO does not have a mechanism to ensure that all the sex offenders under order of supervision are informed about potential registration requirements. We noted that ICE-ERO field offices could choose to establish their own procedures for informing these offenders and some field offices had chosen to use the Form I-220B addendum (Order of Supervision), which explains the alien's potential registration requirements, among other conditions of release. We reported that ICE-ERO was in the process of a review to determine whether continued use of the Form I-220B addendum as a means to notify alien sex offenders of their potential registration requirements was warranted; however, ICE-ERO had not set a deadline for timely completion of this review. We recommended that the Director of ICE should direct ICE-ERO to establish a deadline to ensure timely completion of its review of the Form I-220B addendum. ICE had established a working group in 2009 to review and revise ICE's policy on reporting requirements under orders of release on recognizance and orders of supervision and, in May 2014, ICE-ERO officials reported that the agency had taken steps toward creating a new form, Form I-220 (Order of Release on Recognizance or Order of Supervision), to supersede and combine the Form I-220A (Order of Release on Recognizance) and Form I-220B. Most recently, in its December 2014 update to this recommendation, ICE reported that it had reviewed the original Form I-220B and determined that the form addresses the fundamental concerns with regard to registration notification and will continue to use the form (as opposed to the new draft Form I-220) to notify alien sex offenders of their requirement to register with the appropriate agency upon release. We believe that ICE-ERO's reinstatement of the original Form I-220B addendum addresses this recommendation for a timely completion of the working group's review of the addendum for informing alien sex offenders of their registration requirement.

    Recommendation: The Director of ICE should direct ICE-ERO to establish a deadline to ensure timely completion of its review of the Form I-220B addendum.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: ICE-ERO has a procedure in place to inform alien sex offenders who are being removed about potential registration requirements, but not alien sex offenders who are being released into the community under supervision. In August 2014, we reported that ICE-ERO was reviewing options for informing alien sex offenders under supervision about their potential registration requirements and for notifying jurisdictions when alien sex offenders are released under supervision, but had not established a deadline for completing its review. In a December 2014 update to our recommendation that ICE-ERO establish a deadline for its review, ICE reported that it continues to work with the U.S. Marshal's Service, Bureau of Prisons, and the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office within the Department of Justice, to consider the practicability of creating a form for use by ICE to ensure alien sex offenders who are released under order of supervision are informed about their potential responsibility to register in an approved jurisdiction where they will reside, work or attend school. ICE estimates that it will complete this process by June 30, 2016. Based on the actions taken so far, we do not believe ICE-ERO has satisfied the requirements of this recommendation and we will continue to monitor and update its progress.

    Recommendation: The Director of ICE should direct ICE-ERO to establish a deadline for when it will complete its assessment of options for informing alien sex offenders who are released under order of supervision about their potential responsibility to register and communicate the results of its assessment with federal stakeholders.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (SORNA) and other federal laws identify when relevant jurisdiction officials should be notified of the release from custody of sex offenders. However, the agencies that have these notification responsibilities are limited in their ability to provide information to and about alien sex offenders, in part, because they do not know when ICE-ERO will release or remove these offenders. In August 2013, we reported that ICE-ERO does not consistently notify relevant jurisdiction officials when an alien sex offender is removed or released under supervision primarily because ICE-ERO is uncertain whether it has a responsibility to do so. In response to our recommendation that ICE-ERO consult with the relevant agencies to develop an appropriate mechanism for notifying relevant jurisdictions, ICE-ERO officials reported in December 2014 that ICE continues to work toward implementation of protocols which would enable the relevant jurisdictions to ascertain whether a sex offender has been removed from the United States. They stated that ICE has formed an alliance with the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office within the Department of Justice to log on to their National Sex Offender Registry site (referred to as the Sex Offender Registration National Alert Exchange Portal) and that both agencies are exploring possible functionality to enable local jurisdictions to search for new postings and identify individuals that are being released by ICE into their respective jurisdictions for sex offender registration compliance. We will continue to monitor and update ICE's progress toward completing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct ICE-ERO, in consultation with the SMART Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to develop an appropriate mechanism for notifying relevant jurisdictions when an alien sex offender has been removed from the country.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

 

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