Secure Communities: Criminal Alien Removals Increased, but Technology Planning Improvements Needed
What GAO Found
Data from the Department of Homeland Securitys (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicate that the percentage of its removals attributable to Secure Communities increased from about 4 percent in fiscal year 2009 to about 20 percent in fiscal year 2011. Of about 183,000 aliens removed under the program from October 2008 through March 2012, about 74 percent had a criminal conviction. ICE did not have state or local arrest charges for about 56 percent of alien Secure Communities removals from October 2010 (when ICE began collecting arrest charges) through March 2012, so we were unable to determine the most frequent arrest charges under the program. For the 44 percent of aliens removed on whom ICE collected arrest charge data, traffic offenses, including driving under the influence of alcohol, were the most frequent arrest charges. ICE is taking steps to improve the collection of arrest charge data, but it is too early to assess the effectiveness of its efforts.
ICE has not consistently followed best practices in acquiring technology to help determine the immigration status of aliens identified by Secure Communities. ICE awarded contracts to modernize its technology without fully defining requirements or developing an integrated master scheduletwo best practices for managing capital programs. As a result, ICE encountered delays, cost increases, and products that did not meet ICEs needs. For example, ICE spent $14.3 million for one contract to develop services that ICE found to be unusable. Establishing well-defined requirements and developing an integrated schedule for completing technology modernization could better position ICE to prevent delays and cost increases. Further, ICE plans to develop a workforce plan after the systems are deployed. Developing a workforce plan prior to full system deployment, consistent with internal controls, could better position ICE to effectively use staff when it deploys the modernized technology.
DHSs Office of Civil Rights and ICE identified four safeguards to help protect aliens civil rights under Secure Communities, including providing detainees with a revised detainer form with telephone numbers to call when they feel their civil rights have been violated. Officials are also developing briefing materials on how to protect aliens civil rights, statistically analyzing arrest and other information to identify potential civil rights abuses, and using an existing DHS complaint process for addressing Secure Communities concerns.
Why GAO Did This Study
Initiated in 2008, Secure Communities is an ICE program designed to identify potentially removable aliens, particularly those with criminal convictions, in state and local law enforcement custody. Fingerprints checked against a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal database are checked against DHSs immigration database to help determine whether an arrested individual is removable. GAO was asked to review Secure Communities operations. This report addresses (1) enforcement trends under Secure Communities, (2) ICEs adherence to best practices in acquiring Secure Communitiesrelated technology, and (3) ICE safeguards to help protect against potential civil rights abuses under Secure Communities. GAO analyzed ICE data on removals from October 2008 through March 2012, and arrest charges from October 2010 through March 2012; reviewed program guidance, policies, and reports; and interviewed ICEs Law Enforcement Support Center and agency officials, local law enforcement and community groups in four locations selected for geographic diversity, among other factors. These perspectives are not generalizable, but provided insights into Secure Communities operations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement||To help ensure that ICE acquires effective technology to support the Secure Communities program and effectively uses its workforce, and to follow sound management practices, the Director of ICE should establish well-defined requirements prior to awarding additional Alien Criminal Response Information Management (ACRIMe) modernization contracts;||
We found that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had not fully defined the technical or user requirements for its Alien Criminal Response Information Management (ACRIMe) system prior to awarding contracts, which contributed to delays and products that did not meet mission needs. As a result, we recommended that ICE establish well-defined requirements prior to awarding additional ACRIMe modernization contracts. Prior to awarding the July 2014 ACRIMe contract, ICE defined specific technical requirements and worked with users to define their requirements. These requirements were documented and included in the terms of the contract. These actions are consistent with our recommendation.
|United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement||To help ensure that ICE acquires effective technology to support the Secure Communities program and effectively uses its workforce, and to follow sound management practices, the Director of ICE should develop an integrated master schedule that identifies all tasks to be performed by the government and current and future contractors, and links activities being performed by different contractors.||
We found that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had not developed an integrated master schedule to manage the modernization of its Alien Criminal Response Information Management (ACRIMe) system and was not in a position to effectively identify and resolve scheduling risks. Consequently, we recommended that ICE develop an integrated master schedule that identifies all tasks and links activities. In February 2015, ICE provided an integrated master schedule that we found substantially met the best practice of capturing all activities. In November 2015, ICE provided an updated integrated master schedule and we found that ICE had made significant progress on linking activities, and minimally met the best practice of sequencing all activities. These actions, and ongoing efforts to update and enhance the schedule to ensure that all tasks are included and are linked to predecessor and successor activities, should help ICE identify and mitigate potential problems, such as delays and cost increases. As a result, this recommendation is closed as implemented.
|United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement||To help ensure that ICE acquires effective technology to support the Secure Communities program and effectively uses its workforce, and to follow sound management practices, the Director of ICE should develop a workforce plan to support the analysis of immigration status determinations under Secure Communities.||
We found that developing a workforce plan to guide workforce resource decisions could help ensure ICE workforce decisions are made in an effective and cost-efficient manner. As a result, to help ensure that ICE acquires effective technology to support the Secure Communities program and effectively uses its workforce, we recommended that the Director of ICE follow sound management practices and develop a workforce plan to support the analysis of immigration status determinations under Secure Communities. In January 2013, ICE published the Interoperability Response Center Consolidation Concept of Operations. The purpose of the document is to describe the transfer of immigration status query processing workloads and subsequent workload balancing and process standardization initiatives. This action is consistent with our recommendation.