Criminal Aliens:

INS' Efforts To Identify and Remove Imprisoned Aliens Need To Be Improved

T-GGD-97-154: Published: Jul 15, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1997.

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GAO discussed the Institutional Hearing Program (IHP), focusing on: (1) the extent to which deportable criminal aliens were included in the IHP; (2) the extent to which the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) completed deportation hearings for deportable aliens during their time in prison or after their release; and (3) INS' efforts to enhance IHP.

GAO noted that: (1) the IHP is the Department of Justice's main vehicle for placing aliens who are incarcerated in federal and state prisons into deportation proceedings so that they can be expeditiously deported upon release from prison; (2) in fiscal years (FY) 1995 and 1996, Congress authorized dedicated IHP staff to help expand and enhance the program; (3) the INS has not fully complied with the law's requirements concerning criminal aliens who committed aggravated felonies, nor has it realized the full potential of the IHP; (4) INS did not identify many deportable criminal aliens before their release from prison; (5) for the second half of FY 1995, this resulted in nearly 2,000 criminal aliens, including some aggravated felons, being released into U.S. communities without an INS determination of the risk they posed to public safety; (6) GAO asked INS to determine whether there had been post-release criminal activity by 635 of these criminal aliens; (7) INS determined that 23 percent had been rearrested for crimes, including 184 felonies; (8) INS did not complete the IHP for the majority of criminal aliens who were identified as potentially deportable and were released from federal and five state prisons during the last 6 months of FY 1995; (9) INS was able to more quickly remove from the country those aliens for whom it completed the IHP with final deportation orders than those aliens for whom it completed deportation hearings after their prison release; (10) if INS had completed proceedings for all aliens released from state and federal prisons in FY 1995 before their release, it could have avoided nearly $63 million in detention costs; (11) INS' efforts to improve the IHP have encountered several impediments; (12) the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and some states have accepted INS' proposals to make the processing of aliens more efficient, but others have not; (13) INS did not staff the IHP at the expected levels because of hiring delays, agent attrition, and the use of lower graded agents to replace rather than supplement higher graded agents already working on IHP cases; and (14) INS' top managers did not adequately respond to identified IHP performance problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS communicated the role of special agents assigned to criminal alien removal work in an October 1997 memo to field managers. With respect to establish IHP goals for district directors, INS has stated that it does not intend to set goals at the district level.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should establish and effectively communicate a clear policy on the role of special agents in the IHP and, using a workload analysis model, set IHP goals for district directors with IHP responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer applicable because INS was abolished in March 2003, the IRP program was moved to a new organizational entity, and the position of immigration agent is no longer current.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should identify the causes of immigration agent attrition and take steps to ensure that staffing is adequate to achieve IHP program goals.

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

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS completed a workload analysis model in 1998, and used it for the formation of fiscal year 2002 budget request for IHP positions.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should: (1) develop a workload analysis model to identify the IHP resources needed in any period to achieve overall program goals and the portion of those goals that would be achievable with alternative levels of resources; and (2) use the model to support its IHP funding and staffing requests. Such a model should consider several factors, including the number of foreign-born inmates, number of prisons that must be visited, number and types of IHP staff, length of time to process cases, and travel time and costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: INS's position is that such a control system is not needed for aggravated felons because INS should be screening all foreign-born inmates as they enter the prison system. Thus, INS does not plan to implement a system to identify aggravated felons separate from other foreign-born inmates.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should give priority to aliens serving time for aggravated felonies by establishing controls to ensure that these aliens are identified from among the universe of foreign-born inmates provided by BOP and the states, are placed into deportation proceedings while in prison, and are taken into custody upon their release.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation was implemented at the federal level, but not fully implemented at the state level. INS believed it would not be possible to integrate every state's system with INS's automated tracking system. Since INS was abolished in March 2003, there has been more emphasis placed on national security than criminal alien issues. There do not appear to be plans to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, INS, should establish a nationwide data system containing the universe of foreign-born inmates reported to INS by BOP and the state departments of corrections and use this system to track the IHP status of each inmate.

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

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS exceeded its fiscal year 1999 removal goal, and was on target to exceed its fiscal year 2000 removal goal as well.

    Recommendation: If it appears that IHP goals will not be met, INS should document any actions taken to correct the problem.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Immigration and Naturalization Service

 

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