Illegal Aliens:

Opportunities Exist to Improve the Expedited Removal Process

GGD-00-176: Published: Sep 1, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) expedited removal process, focusing on: (1) INS' management controls over the expedited removal process and the credible fear determination process, including those determinations relating to aliens' decisions to recant their claims of a fear of persecution or torture; and (2) analysis of aliens who failed to appear before an immigration judge for their removal hearing after being released from detention.

GAO noted that: (1) analysis of documentation in 365 randomly selected case files of aliens who were processed for expedited removal in fiscal year 1999 indicated that INS inspectors were generally complying with requirements of the expedited removal process at the Los Angeles, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Miami airports and the San Ysidro port of entry; (2) these requirements include asking aliens if they feared being returned to their home country, having a supervisor review the inspectors' decisions to remove the alien, and having aliens sign their sworn statements; (3) in the Los Angeles, Miami, and New York asylum offices, GAO reviewed all 45 cases in which an asylum officer determined that the aliens did not have a credible fear of persecution or torture; (4) in these cases, asylum officers generally complied with documenting the credible fear process; (5) INS guidance requires that asylum officers document an alien's wish to withdraw a claim of fear of persecution or torture by having the alien: (a) make this request in writing; or (b) sign a statement indicating that the decision was voluntary; (6) in 8 percent of 10,755 cases, aliens recanted their claims of a fear of persecution or torture between April 1, 1997, and September 30, 1999; (7) the asylum offices varied in the amount of documentation they obtained from aliens recanting their claims of a fear of persecution or torture; (8) in July 2000, INS required that asylum officers document the alien's reason for not asking for protection from being removed from the United States; (9) INS favors releasing aliens from detention, in cases when an asylum officer determined those aliens to have a credible fear of persecution or torture if INS determines the aliens do not pose a flight risk or danger to the community; (10) in fiscal year 1999, 78 percent of aliens in cases when asylum officers determined those aliens to have a credible fear of persecution or torture, were released; (11) data on aliens who were found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture between April 1, 1997, and September 30, 1999, showed that 2,351 aliens were released and had received an immigration judge's decision; (12) of the 2,351 aliens, 1,000 (or 42 percent) of them had not appeared for their removal hearings; (13) Department of Justice officials pointed out that over time more cases will be closed in which aliens will have appeared for their removal hearings; and consequently, this would result in a reduction of the failure to appear rate, to as low as 25 percent; and (14) INS has efforts under way to increase aliens' appearance rates.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of December 2002, INS stated that this recommendation remained "open and resolved, however, the solution will require additional resources." INS further stated that it "will not have an opportunity to request these additional resources until the FY05 budget request." When these resources are received, it intended to impose requirements for releasing expedited removal aliens from detention. In 2001 INS, with contractor assistance and additional EOIR data, analyzed data regarding aliens who do and do not appear for their removal hearings, and was to decide what changes would be needed to its policy by December 31, 2001. The results of the analysis showed that one nationality did not appear for their hearings much more often than all others. However, INS decided that it could not change policy to single out one nationality for detention while all others would be released on a case-by-case basis, and therefore, decided to impose new requirements for releasing aliens in the expedited removal process, as well as to consider the piloting of a supervised release program.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct INS to analyze the characteristics of those aliens who appear and those who do not appear for their removal hearing and to use the results to reevaluate its policy for when to release aliens in cases when an asylum officer has determined the aliens to have a credible fear of persecution or torture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to a December 2002 memo, INS stated this recommendation remained "open and resolved, however, the solution will require additional resources." INS further stated it "will not have an opportunity to request these additional resources until FY05 budget request." When these resources are recieved, INS intends to impose 5 requirements for releasing expedited removal aliens from detention: require sponsors of aliens to sign affidavits of support, verify sponsors addresses, require aliens to report to district offices within 2 weeks of moving to new jurisdiction, require offices to revoke parole and apprehend aliens who fail to appear for hearings, and not relase asylum seekers to illegal aliens.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct INS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review to work together to establish a system to; (1) have the aliens' new address verified by using readily available information sources; and (2) provide the results to the immigration judges for their use in making change of location decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

 

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