IG Report Shows Immigration System Buckling Under Pressure

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July 20, 2022

Federal authorities don't know the location of potentially hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants that entered the country last year, many of whom never showed up for their mandatory appointment with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security report.

The report shows Customs and Border Protection failed to record the U.S. addresses of around a third of illegal border crossers between March and June 2021, a period during which border agents encountered more than 720,000 migrants along the southwest border.

Many of those migrants failed to report to ICE following their release. Roughly 30 percent of migrants released into the United States between March and September 2021 "did not comply with release terms," according to the report. All migrants who are not immediately deported must check in at an ICE office within 60 days of their release. Those who fail to provide a U.S. address and schedule an asylum court date are nearly untraceable to law enforcement. 

The report, written by the DHS office of the inspector general and obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon, comes as President Joe Biden faces bipartisan criticism over his handling of the border crisis. Shortly after the migrant surge began in 2021, the U.S. immigration system began to buckle under stress. There has been a record 1,746,119 total encounters on the southern border in the 2022 fiscal year so far. The previous record was held by the 2021 fiscal year, which saw 1,734,686 southern border encounters.

To deal with the flood, agents began using "ad hoc methods" such as white boards to track the whereabouts of migrants with little success, the report states. The system's inability to record information for the large swath of migrants crossing the border hamstrung its ability to provide important functions like keeping families with young children together.

"DHS’s IT systems did not effectively allow CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel to track migrants from apprehension to release or transfer," the report states. "These deficiencies can delay DHS from uniting children with families and sponsors and cause migrants to remain in DHS custody beyond legal time limits."

DHS did not respond to a request for comment.

Under President Joe Biden, immigration authorities have released up to hundreds of thousands of migrants into the United States without court dates. From March to mid-July 2021, roughly 50,000 illegal immigrants were free to live in the United States without a scheduled court date, according to a report from Axios.

Migrants who never receive court dates are subject to deportation by ICE. Yet the Biden administration has dramatically curtailed the use of deportations to enforce immigration law.

ICE deported just 58,000 illegal immigrants in the 2021 fiscal year. That number constitutes the lowest number in recent history. Even under former president Barack Obama, ICE deported hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants per year. 

DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has defended his handling of the migration crisis. In April, he told lawmakers that DHS has "effectively managed" the number of migrants entering the country, although he called on Congress to pass more funding for his agency.

"We inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain. It is not built to manage the current levels and types of migratory flows," Mayorkas said. "Only Congress can fix this."

The Free Beacon previously reported on the plummeting number of migrant prosecutions under the Biden administration. Just 2,896 migrants apprehended on the southwest border were transferred into U.S. Marshals Service custody in the 2021 fiscal year.