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: In September 2013, we issued a report (GAO-13-832) on the extent to which alien sex offenders who had been released from the custody of the Enforcement and Removal Operations directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE-ERO) under orders of supervision were informed of their potential requirement to register as sex offenders. We found that ICE-ERO was 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 had not established a deadline for completing its review. We recommended that the Director of ICE direct ICE-ERO to establish a deadline to ensure timely completion of its review of the Form I-220B addendum that was being used at the time to inform alien sex offenders of their potential registration requirements. In its December 2014 response, ICE-ERO stated that it had reviewed the Form I-220B and because page 3 of the form directs aliens sex offenders to register with the appropriate agency, ICE had adopted and would be using the Form I-220B to notify sex offenders of their registration requirement. As a result, ICE-ERO now has a standardized process for informing sex offenders released under order of supervision of their registration requirement, which will help ensure public safety in the communities where these offenders are released.

    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: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Enforcement and Removal Operations directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (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 September 2013, 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. We recommended that ICE-ERO establish a deadline for when it will complete its assessment of options for informing alien sex offenders of their potential responsibility to register and communicate the results of its assessment with federal stakeholders. As a result, in a September 2015 update, ICE-ERO officials informed us that after consultation with the U.S. Marshals Service and the SMART Office, ICE had clarified and standardized the process to notify alien sex offenders being released from ICE custody of their sex offender registration requirements, using the Form I-220A, Order of Release on Recognizance, or Form I-220B, Order of Supervision. According to ICE-ERO officials, before release from ICE custody, alien sex offenders with a current requirement to register as a sex offender are informed verbally and in writing of their responsibility to register with local law enforcement authorities where the sex offender will reside, work or attend school, within seven (7) days of release. As a result, ICE-ERO now has a standardized process for informing sex offenders released under order of supervision of their registration requirement, which will help ensure public safety in the communities where these offenders are released.

    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: Closed - Implemented

    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 the Enforcement and Removal Operations directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE-ERO) will release or remove these offenders. In September 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. We recommended that ICE-ERO, in consultation with the SMART Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, develop an appropriate mechanism for notifying relevant jurisdictions when an alien sex offender has been removed from the country. In response, in September 2015, ICE-ERO officials informed us that they had created a new form--ICE-Form 71-046, Sex Offender Notification for the National Sex Offender Registry--as the mechanism to notify local jurisdictions, via the SORNA Exchange Portal, of sex offenders that are being released by ICE into their respective jurisdictions for sex offender registration compliance. They stated that to trigger the notification process, an ICE-ERO officer conducts an NCIC and TECS search prior to the release of each sex offender under ICE custody to determine if a current requirement to register exists. If one exists, the ICE-ERO officer is required to first inform the sex offender that he or she must register with the appropriate agency(s) as a sex offender and then also contact ERO Victim Witness Coordinators who are required to post a completed Form 71-046 to the SORNA Exchange Portal. The posting then enables the appropriate local jurisdictions to search for new postings and identify individuals who are being released from ICE custody into their respective jurisdictions. As a result of these actions, ICE-ERO now has a mechanism for ensuring that relevant jurisdictions are notified when an alien sex offender has been released from ICE custody, which will help to increase public safety.

    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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