Another report says CBP, ICE not detaining, removing inadmissibles flying into country

Between fiscal years 2021 and 2023, the report found CBP agents at this airport released at least 383 inadmissible travelers from custody into the U.S.

By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor
Published: June 20, 2024 11:00pm

The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued another report identifying ongoing problems with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processes.

A regional CBP and ICE detention and removal processes were ineffective at one major international airport, the OIG audit found. The report redacts the name and location of the airport and CBP and ICE regional offices.

Between fiscal years 2021 and 2023, the report found CBP agents at this airport released at least 383 inadmissible travelers from custody into the U.S. who, under the law, are prohibited from entering the country.

Instead of detaining and processing them for removal, they were released and ordered to return to be removed on their own recognizance; 168 (44%) of them didn't return for their removal flights.

ICE officials said they denied CBP's overnight detention requests for inadmissible travelers before removal flights because of "staffing and bed space limitations," according to the investigation. CBP also said it didn't have enough overtime funds to pay officers to detain inadmissible travelers at the airport after operating hours. CBP agents also described difficulties related to transferring inadmissible travelers to another airport because they needed to first receive permission from the airline and another airport's CBP office and "overcome other logistical issues."

CBP agents also didn't issue "notices to appear" documents ordering 77 inadmissibles to appear before an immigration judge who didn't return for their deportation flights. If the NTAs had been issued, the inadmissible travelers would have been transferred to ICE to begin removal proceedings. CBP agents claimed they didn't do this because they didn't have "an effective process to track which inadmissible travelers failed to return for their removal flights."

CBP also decreased the number of staff responsible for issuing NTAs to inadmissible travelers, the OIG investigation found, which "contributed to a backlog of unissued NTAs for identified inadmissible travelers."

The report was issued after the OIG found that CBP agents weren't properly screening and vetting noncitizens who they released into the country. Another found that CBP agents were releasing known and suspected terrorists into the country because of "ineffective practices and processes," The Center Square reported.

Claims of inadequate funding or needing new technology has fallen flat on Congress, which has increased CBP funding by $2.98 billion since fiscal 2021, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security has pointed out.

The committee conducted its own audit and issued five reports on alleged DHS failures. In its last, it identified "consistent misuse and abuse of taxpayer resources enabled by [DHS Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas, specifically through his failure to detain illegal aliens and use [ICE] detention resources in accordance with their intended purpose."

Under the Biden administration, ICE hasn't used detention facilities at full capacity, but taxpayers pay for them regardless at a rate of between $1.3 billion and $1.43 billion, the committee found.

In a recent column, the committee's chairman, Mark Green, R-Tenn., pointed out budget discrepancies. Biden's fiscal 2024 budget requested a 10% cut ($1.8 billion) to CBP operations compared to what Congress enacted in fiscal 2023. It also slashed ICE's enforcement and removal operations budget by nearly $700 million, or 15% from fiscal 2023 enacted levels, Green notes.

Under the previous administration, DHS' fiscal 2021 budget requested 60,000 ICE beds. Under Biden, the fiscal 2023 and fiscal 2024 budgets requested 32,500 and 25,000 ICE beds, respectively, he notes.

Because of "Mayorkas' open-borders directives, ICE has also routinely failed to utilize the detention space authorized by Congress," he said in a separate statement. In Congress' recently passed fiscal 2024 appropriations bill, 41,500 ICE beds were authorized. As of June 1, only 37,500 beds were being used, according to ICE data.

In a recent House Homeland Security budget hearing, U.S. Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., pressed Mayorkas on his request for fewer ICE detention beds than Congress funded, saying, "We are giving you more money than you are asking for, and then you are coming into these hearings, and you are trying to say that you don't have the financial resources that you need to carry out the job… And you continue to seek to place the blame on us."

Mayorkas replied, "The security of the southern border is our highest priority."

DHS requests were made for fewer resources to detain and remove illegal foreign nationals as record numbers continued to pour through the border. Since January 2021, more than 11 million, including those who evaded capture, have illegally entered the country. In the first six months of fiscal 2024, a record more than 1.7 million illegally entered, The Center Square reported.

In February, Mayorkas was the first sitting cabinet member to be impeached in U.S. history after claiming the southern border was secure for years. In April, he admitted there was a crisis at the southern border.

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