New Audit Finds DHS Cannot Adequately Locate Illegal Aliens Released
FAIR Take | September 2023
In a scathing report issued last week, the DHS Inspector General determined that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot adequately locate illegal aliens it releases because it fails to consistently collect the aliens’ destination addresses. The audit, which reviewed 981,671 records of migrants apprehended by the Border Patrol from March 2021 through August 2022, found that more than 177,000 of those records – or 18 percent – had addresses that were missing, invalid for delivery, or not legitimate residential locations.
Ideally, the government should be detaining illegal aliens crossing the southern border and placing them into expedited removal, pursuant to Section 235 of the INA. However, if the government is going to release them, collecting a migrant’s destination address is critical if there is any chance of enforcing our immigration laws. If information surfaces post-release indicating that an alien is a national security or public safety threat, or has otherwise engaged in behavior that would make him a priority for removal, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has no hope of finding the alien without knowing his location. And, as the Inspector General noted collecting addresses is critical for ICE to “track migrants, send proper documentation, and determine which ICE field office migrants will check into while awaiting immigration proceedings.”
Unfortunately, of the 981,671 alien files reviewed in the audit, the Inspector General found that:
- More than 54,000 addresses were simply left blank in the Border Patrol’s records.
- Over 26,000 addresses were not valid for mail delivery.
- Approximately 97,000 addresses were recorded as apartment buildings without unit numbers.
- Some addresses recorded were uninhabitable locations, such as restaurants, bus stations, and car dealerships.
- Two addresses recorded did not exist, but were used 50 different times during a six-month period.
- 80 percent of addresses were recorded twice, with 780 recorded more than 20 times.
In the report, the Inspector General notes that the Border Patrol’s ability to collect an address is contingent on an alien’s ability to provide one. Unsurprisingly, the report found that some migrants don’t have a valid destination address when crossing the border, and those who do often, “provide handwritten addresses that may be in another language, invalid, or illegible.” With thousands of illegal aliens arriving each day, Border Patrol agents often prioritize speed over quality when confirming addresses.
What is particularly troubling about the Inspector General’s findings is that the volume of illegal aliens crossing the southern border clearly prevented Border Patrol agents from doing their job. The Inspector General noted that almost every Border Patrol sector was at capacity during the period of the audit and that the highest rates of undeliverable addresses were at sectors that apprehended the most migrants.
The Inspector General also found that once Border Patrol releases aliens, and thus transfers responsibility to ICE, ICE does not consistently confirm destination addresses post-release. According to the Inspector General, ICE does not have set standards for validating addresses post-release. Instead, ICE’s efforts to confirm addresses vary by location. Some offices use the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) website, some conduct more in-depth analysis using DHS databases, and others don’t validate addresses at all because of limited time and resources. In one field office, ICE agents were responsible for “35,000 migrant cases post-release, averaging about 3 minutes of staff time per case annually.”
According to ICE, validating addresses is a best practice, but officers are not required by any policy to validate addresses or to report missing/invalid addresses. Even worse, ICE Headquarters, “does not consistently analyze migrant address data to identify errors or trends related to non-residential and recurring addresses.” Without standardized procedures to verify addresses, ICE risks operating on faulty information – or not being able to take action at all. The report notes that without a legitimate address, ICE may only locate missing aliens after they have been arrested by police for unrelated offenses. In fact, “since March 2021, USBP released more than 127,000 migrants who were later arrested in the United States.”
To improve the process of collecting addresses, the Inspector General offered DHS four recommendations:
- That the CBP Acting Commissioner and the Acting Director of ICE create and implement a plan to coordinate on requirements and processes when migrants don’t have valid U.S. addresses for release.
- That the Acting Director of ICE establish a policy for ICE field personnel to validate migrant addresses and elevate concerns.
- That the Executive Associate Director of ICE ERO analyze migrant U.S. release address data on a recurring basis.
- That the Acting Director of ICE evaluate resources and address results for officers overseeing addresses.
DHS did not concur with the recommendations. In its response, DHS stated that the recommendations “would be impractical or resource intensive without adding commensurate value.” The agency even goes as far as to blame the illegal aliens for failing to provide USBP with accurate addresses—which is, of course, exactly what they will do if they don’t want to be found. Given the imperative nature of obtaining a migrant’s address, recommendations to improve that process are hardly lacking in value. With the flood of aliens arriving at our borders, DHS must make a concerted effort to coordinate and standardize the collection and validation of migrant addresses. Otherwise, illegal aliens will continue to violate our immigration laws, living undetected in the United States.