Criminal Aliens:

INS' Efforts to Remove Imprisoned Aliens Continue to Need Improvement

GGD-99-3: Published: Oct 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Institutional Hearing Program's (IHP) performance during 1997, focusing on: (1) the extent to which deportable criminal aliens were included in the IHP; (2) the extent to which INS completed removal hearings for deportable aliens during their time in prison or after their prison release; and (3) whether INS had acted on recommendations that GAO made in its July 1997 testimony.

GAO noted that: (1) INS' performance has shown limited improvement since 1995; (2) in 1995, INS' database of deportable aliens did not have records on about 34 percent of the released inmates included in GAO's analysis who had been identified by the states and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as foreign born; (3) about 32 percent of these were subsequently determined by INS' Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) to be potentially deportable criminal aliens; (4) in 1997, INS had no records on 36 percent of such aliens, 27 percent of whom were determined by LESC to be potentially deportable criminal aliens; (5) although some of these inmates were United States citizens and some were ordered removed through means other than the IHP, a substantial number were aliens on whom INS did not have records; (6) in 1995, about 33 percent of these potentially deportable criminal aliens for whom INS did not have records were aggravated felons at the time of the analysis, as determined by LESC; (7) in GAO's analysis of 1997 data, 63 percent of the potentially deportable criminal aliens for whom INS did not have records were identified by LESC as being aggravated felons; (8) this is important because federal law requires INS to initiate removal proceedings for aggravated felons while they are incarcerated and, to the extent possible, complete deportation proceedings for these felons before their release from prison; (9) in 1995, INS did not complete the IHP before prison release for 57 percent of the potentially deportable criminal aliens for whom INS had records; as a result, INS incurred about $37 million in avoidable detention costs; (10) in 1997, INS did not complete the IHP for about 50 percent of these aliens; the avoidable detention costs were about $40 million; and (11) as of September 1998, INS had made limited progress in implementing GAO's recommendations, as follows: (a) INS had begun to establish an automated system for tracking potentially deportable criminal aliens in BOP facilities, but it had not determined whether it will be able to use this system to track potentially deportable criminal aliens in state prison systems; (b) INS had not taken specific actions to ensure that aggravated felons are placed in removal proceedings while they are incarcerated and then taken into custody upon their release from prison; (c) regarding resource issues, INS completed a draft workload analysis model in June 1998 that IHP managers intend to use to determine what resources are needed to accomplish program goals; and (d) INS has taken limited actions to improve its management practices.

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