- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

More than one-third of the illegal aliens apprehended each year and found to be “removable” from the United States are released because of a lack of personnel, a shortage of beds and inadequate funding to hold them while determining their legal status, a report says.

The inability of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ensure their departure — including those who pose national-security or public-safety threats — exposes the country to “significant risks” from would-be terrorists and criminals, said a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.

The report, released Thursday, said that of 774,112 illegal aliens apprehended during the past three years and ruled to be “removable,” 280,987 — or 36 percent — were released because of a lack of personnel, bed space and funding.

“This presents significant risks due to the inability of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE to verify the identity, country-of-origin, and terrorist or criminal affiliation of many of the aliens being released,” the report said.

The report said that although apprehensions have climbed by 19 percent since 2002, authorized personnel and funded bed-space levels have dropped by 3 percent and 6 percent, respectively. It said those “shortfalls encourage illegal immigration by increasing the likelihood that apprehended aliens will be released while their immigration status is adjudicated.”

A removable alien is one who has been found to have violated immigration law, pending an appeal, or committed a crime or poses a security risk.

Inspector General Richard L. Skinner, in the report, said historical evidence showed that 62 percent of the aliens released eventually would be issued final orders of removal by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review and later fail to surrender.

Although ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal has received additional funding to enhance its fugitive-operations program, Mr. Skinner said it was “unlikely” that many of the released aliens would ever be removed. As of Dec. 30, he said, more than 544,000 released aliens with orders of removal had fled into the country.

Declining bed space and personnel levels also are making it difficult for ICE to detain and remove illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico, including aliens from countries whose governments support terrorism or protect terrorists, he said.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE, said in a response that the agency is developing plans to increase its capacity to detain, process and remove aliens who pose a security or public-safety threat — a key recommendation made in the report.

Mrs. Myers said ICE has made progress in creating models to determine bed-space needs, staffing requirements, infrastructure, removal requirements and funding requirements based on expected arrest numbers.

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