ICE spent $100M shut­tling young il­le­gals across U.S

’12 amnesty blamed for surge

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The fed­eral agency that han­dles de­por­ta­tions spent more than $100 mil­lion of its money over the last few years to ferry il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren around the U.S., ac­cord­ing to cal­cu­la­tions by a watch­dog group that says the cash could have been bet­ter spent on en­force­ment.

Gov­ern­ment fig­ures ob­tained by the Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form Law In­sti­tute through an open records re­quest show Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment spent an av­er­age of $665 per ju­ve­nile in 2014, with most of that go­ing to the cost of air­plane flights to shut­tle the chil­dren among gov­ern­ment agen­cies, to rel­a­tives here in the U.S. or back to their home coun­tries — if they’re de­ported.

At that rate, ICE will spend about $4.5 mil­lion fly­ing just the chil­dren nabbed at the bor­der in Oc­to­ber, and some­where north of $100 mil­lion since the surge be­gan in earnest in 2014.

“It’s in­sult to in­jury on a mas­sive scale,” said Dale Wil­cox, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of IRLI.

He blamed Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 de­por­ta­tion amnesty

for young adult il­le­gal im­mi­grants, the so-called Dream­ers, for the surge, say­ing it en­ticed tens of thou­sands of new mi­grants, par­tic­u­larly ju­ve­niles, to take a risk on mak­ing the trip.

In­stead of be­ing sent back, they are shut­tled among var­i­ous fed­eral agen­cies un­til they are even­tu­ally de­liv­ered to their par­ents, other rel­a­tives or spon­sor fam­i­lies — where they of­ten dis­ap­pear into the shad­ows.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Se­nate Homeland Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, only 3 per­cent of the more than 120,000 caught over the last few years have been sent home as of June.

That, ac­cord­ing to the new Bor­der Pa­trol chief, serves as an in­cen­tive for more to make the jour­ney.

Top po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, how­ever, point the fin­ger else­where. They say the blame lies less with U.S. pol­icy and more with con­di­tions in Cen­tral Amer­ica, in­clud­ing poverty and smug­gling-car­tel vi­o­lence that have made some ar­eas un­liv­able.

What­ever the rea­son, Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers are tak­ing a hit.

ICE of­fi­cials couldn’t pro­vide up­dated cost data for fer­ry­ing chil­dren in­side the U.S., but said the over­all cost to de­port any il­le­gal im­mi­grant in 2015 av­er­aged $12,213. That in­cludes iden­ti­fy­ing, catch­ing, hold­ing, pro­cess­ing through the courts and then ship­ping the per­son back home.

Just the re­moval part alone av­er­aged $1,962, ICE said.

ICE is just one part of the U.S. re­sponse to the new surge. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, which han­dles both the of­fi­cial ports of en­try and the nearly 2,000 miles of south­ern bor­der in be­tween them, has had to open sev­eral new fa­cil­i­ties to process the large num­bers that are show­ing up in Texas, in­clud­ing a new one un­veiled last week near Donna. It can hold up to 500 peo­ple.

The lat­est num­bers for Novem­ber should be re­leased any day, but Oc­to­ber was al­ready one of the worst months on record. Some 6,754 chil­dren trav­el­ing un­ac­com­pa­nied by adults, and an­other 13,123 par­ents and chil­dren trav­el­ing to­gether as fam­i­lies, were ap­pre­hended.

The chil­dren and fam­i­lies can be in bor­der of­fi­cials’ cus­tody for up to 72 hours, which has turned Bor­der Pa­trol agents into “pro­fes­sional child care providers,” the agency’s chief tes­ti­fied to Congress. He said agents who should be pa­trolling the bor­der are in­stead warm­ing bur­ri­tos and dol­ing out cloth­ing for those in the de­ten­tion cen­ters.

When chil­dren are nabbed, they are pro­cessed and then trans­ferred to the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, which then farms them out to rel­a­tives or spon­sors. But along the way they are of­ten shipped across the coun­try, at tax­payer ex­pense.

Ac­cord­ing to the ICE data, un­ac­com­pa­nied ju­ve­niles who end up in their cus­tody are not housed in de­ten­tion cen­ters but in ho­tels, which ac­counts for more than 25 per­cent of the agency’s costs. An­other 58 per­cent goes to air­plane costs.

“We fought for nearly two years to get this data,” Mr. Wil­cox said. “Now we see why the ad­min­is­tra­tion has been less than forth­com­ing and why they’ve re­peat­edly tried to blame the costly … surge on Cen­tral Amer­i­can crime rather than its own amnesty poli­cies.”

The stop­gap spend­ing bill that just cleared Congress in­cludes author­ity for HHS to move up to $300 mil­lion around to ex­pand care for the chil­dren. But the money can’t be tapped un­til Fe­bru­ary, or af­ter the new ad­min­is­tra­tion takes over.

“The agency has suf­fi­cient funds now, but es­ti­mates say it may need more af­ter Fe­bru­ary as funds run out,” a con­gres­sional aide said, with an eye to­ward the con­tin­ued surge.

The Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies said in a re­port that HHS had a stag­ger­ing 11,200 chil­dren in its di­rect care as of Nov. 27, and is pay­ing more for shel­ters now than it ever has in the history of its Of­fice of Refugee Re­set­tle­ment.

Jes­sica Vaughan, pol­icy stud­ies di­rec­tor at the cen­ter, said HHS will need up to $2 bil­lion more over the next year to han­dle the in­flux. For now, that means the depart­ment is cut­ting from other pri­or­i­ties to care for the chil­dren.

Those cuts in­clude money from HIV/ AIDS and drug abuse preven­tion, cancer re­search and con­ta­gious dis­ease preven­tion, she said.

She said the cuts were all the more strik­ing be­cause the role of ORR is to even­tu­ally de­liver the chil­dren to fam­i­lies al­ready here in the U.S. — fam­i­lies that of­ten­times are here il­le­gally them­selves. Ms. Vaughan said that means the gov­ern­ment ends up do­ing “the job of the hu­man smug­glers” by de­liv­er­ing the chil­dren the fi­nal leg of the jour­ney.

“Congress should in­stead di­rect fund­ing to the Bor­der Pa­trol for tem­po­rary shel­ters from which the youths and their fam­i­lies can be swiftly re­turned to their home coun­tries,” she said.

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