The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), has issued a report to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate relating to enforcement of individuals who overstay their immigration status. The report concludes that additional mechanisms for collecting, assessing, and sharing data could strengthen DHS’s efforts but would have costs.
Here is a summary of the findings:
DHS takes actions to address a small portion of the estimated overstay population due to, among other things, competing priorities; however, these efforts could be enhanced by improved planning and performance management.
Since fiscal year 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the principle DHS component responsible for overstay enforcement, has allocated about 3 percent of its investigative work hours to overstay investigations and its Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU), which prioritizes and investigates possible overstays, has arrested approximately 8,100 overstays.
ICE is considering assigning some responsibility for noncriminal overstay enforcement to its Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) directorate, which has responsibility for apprehending and removing illegal aliens from the United States. However, ERO does not plan to assume this responsibility until ICE assesses the funding and resources doing so would require. ICE has not established a time frame for completing this assessment. By developing such a time frame and utilizing the assessment findings, as appropriate, ICE could strengthen its planning efforts and be better positioned to hold staff accountable for completing the assessment.
In addition, CTCEU does not have mechanisms to assess program performance in accordance with leading performance management practices. By establishing such mechanisms, CTCEU could better ensure that managers have information to assist in making decisions for strengthening overstay enforcement efforts and assessing performance against CTCEU’s goals.In the absence of a biometric entry and exit system, DHS uses various methods for identifying overstays, primarily biographic data, and sharing of overstay information; however, DHS faces challenges in collecting departure data and does not share information about all categories of suspected overstays among its components. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the DHS component charged with inspecting all people who enter the United States, does not provide a standard mechanism for nonimmigrants departing the United States through land ports of entry to remit their arrival and departure forms.
These forms contain information, such as arrival and departure dates, used by DHS to identify overstays. CBP officials stated that establishing such a mechanism could help the agency increase its collection of departure data, but could also result in costs related to, for example, physical modifications to land ports of entry. If the benefits outweigh the costs, such a mechanism could help DHS obtain more complete and reliable departure data for identifying overstays. DHS also shares overstay information among its components through various mechanisms.
For example, DHS creates electronic alerts for certain categories of overstays, such as those who overstay by more than 90 days, but does not create alerts for those who overstay by less than 90 days to focus efforts on more egregious overstay violators, as identified by CBP. Expanding the categories of overstays assigned an alert to the extent that benefits outweigh costs could improve the chance that these individuals are identified as overstays during subsequent encounters with federal officials, such as when they apply for readmission to the United States.
Click here to read the full report.
Matthew Kolken is a trial lawyer with experience in all aspects of United States Immigration Law including Immigration Courts throughout the United States, and appellate practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice in the courts of the State of New York , the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).