Planning and management failures by leadership at Immigration and Customs Enforcement resulted in the release of over 600 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions last February, according to a government audit released Tuesday.
Before sequestration took effect in March, ICE released 2,226 illegal immigrants, including 622 who had criminal conviction, as a way to deal with budget shortfalls according to the report from Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.
The vast majority of the releases occurred the weekend before the beginning of sequestration and, according to the audit, since the releases ICE still “has not developed an effective strategy to manage its detention budget.”
Among the failures detailed in the report is the fact that ICE leadership did not know, until informed by House appropriations staffers, that ICE is required by law to maintain an average daily population of 34,000 detainees.
“We determined the execution of the releases was problematic. Insufficient U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executive leadership planning and limited engagement with its Enforcement and Removal Operations field offices contributed to the timing and number of alien releases,” the OIG explained.
“Prior to the detainee releases, ICE executive leadership did not communicate effectively with Enforcement and Removal Operations, and did not inform DHS leadership or the Executive Office of the President about the budget shortfall,” it continued. “In addition, ICE did not notify DHS’ Secretary about plans to release aliens as a remedy for the budget shortfall.”
The Republican senators who requested the audit expressed outrage at the findings.
“It is baffling how an agency charged with homeland security and immigration enforcement would knowingly release hundreds of illegals with criminal histories. In this single action, ICE undermined its own credibility, the rule of law, and the safety of Americans and local law enforcement,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said, adding that the report “provides more evidence that our nation’s immigration laws are being flagrantly disregarded.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was equally dismayed, saying that the “report confirms the Obama administration’s lack of coherent leadership on immigration policy”
“The safety of our border communities shouldn’t be put at risk because ICE officials decide to release detainees — many with criminal records — in order to solve their budget problems without waiting to see if they could obtain more funding,” McCain said.
The OIG made four recommendations to ICE to improve its detention management. In its response ICE concurred with the recommendations.