Audit Deems ICE Management on Immigration Cases Ineffective
WESLACO – A new report is casting doubts on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ability to ramp up deportations of people in the country illegally.
A Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General’s report on deportation operations highlighted mismanagement and insufficient training issues. Their focus was on people who are no longer in detention.
The nearly 20-page report shed light on work inside ICE field offices in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., St. Paul, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington.
Inspectors found ICE agents were swamped with cases they can’t keep track of undocumented immigrants, including criminals.
On average, agents at the field offices are overseeing 1,700 to 10,000 people in the country illegally whose cases are pending in immigration courts.
Immigration attorney Lionel Perez said he wasn’t shocked by the report.
“It makes it kind of hard when you don’t have any priorities. Everybody is the same,” he said. “The policy is now to detain everybody. There are no priorities.”
Under the Obama administration, Perez said criminals and people likely to abscond led the list of people who needed to be deported first.
“I think ICE is under a lot of stress to process people because they’re under orders to do it, so they have to work,” he said.
Perez said there aren’t enough immigration judges available to process the heavy workload of cases. He said he heard of two cases where people were rescheduled on their cases until June 2018.
There are currently eight immigration judges in the Rio Grande Valley. Harlingen received a new judge last month. But Perez said there should be 10.
“I don’t think she’s going to be able to handle the tremendous number of cases that are there to be handled,” he said.
The research for the report happened during the Obama administration, but ICE’s response came during the Trump administration.
The agency said it will work to review policies and update them, and to reassess staffing by January 2018.
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the government would be adding 125 immigration judges to the bench by 2019. Fifty judges will be added this year and 75 in 2018.
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