An­tics of il­le­gals, home coun­tries make de­por­ta­tions hard to carry out

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY STEPHEN DINAN

An il­le­gal im­mi­grant was or­dered de­ported in 2013, and ICE had a flight lined up to take him to Pak­istan. But he re­fused to board the plane, thwart­ing the ef­fort.

When ICE tried again, the man claimed he was ac­tu­ally from Somalia and re­nounced his Pak­istani cit­i­zen­ship. But he re­fused to pro­vide enough in­for­ma­tion to au­thor­i­ties to ar­range his de­por­ta­tion to Somalia, block­ing his de­por­ta­tion again.

Af­ter more back-and-forth, the man fi­nally agreed to his Pak­istani cit­i­zen­ship, and U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment once again asked the gov­ern­ment there to take him back. Ac­cord­ing to a Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­view, he had been in cus­tody four years.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral’s au­dit, re­leased this month, showed that while ar­rest­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants may be a chal­lenge, get­ting them to leave the U.S. can be even tougher as of­fi­cers con­front balky coun­tries over­seas, le­gal ap­peals at home and the mi­grants’ shenani­gans.

ICE sets a goal of try­ing to de­port peo­ple within 90 days of tak­ing them into cus­tody. But of 13,217 peo­ple de­tained as of Dec. 13, 2017, 23 per­cent had ex­hausted the full 90 days. Three months af­ter that, nearly half were still in de­ten­tion. Some, like the Pak­istani man, wait years.

“We give them too many bites at the ap­ple,” said Jes­sica Vaughan, an an­a­lyst at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies who re­viewed the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port.

“With­out a doubt, ICE now faces some sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges to re­mov­ing even the most un­sym­pa­thetic cases,” Ms. Vaughan said, “with the big­gest prob­lem be­ing that it is too easy to abuse the overly gen­er­ous due process that our courts have pro­vided to de­portable aliens.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors sin­gled out one case in which a Mex­i­can mi­grant used the reg­u­lar court sys­tem to chal­lenge a de­por­ta­tion or­der by an im­mi­gra­tion judge. The mi­grant lost at the cir­cuit court, and ICE moved the per­son to a stag­ing lo­ca­tion in prepa­ra­tion for de­por­ta­tion.

But the new lo­ca­tion was in a dif­fer­ent court cir­cuit, and the mi­grant filed a new court chal­lenge. He lost his case with the district court and then went to the new cir­cuit’s court of ap­peals. Ac­cord­ing to the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­view, the mi­grant had been de­tained for more than three years at a cost of more than $36,000 per year.

Those sorts of le­gal de­lays ac­counted for more than half of mi­grants’ ex­tended stays in de­ten­tion.

The sec­ond-big­gest hic­cup was try­ing to get for­eign coun­tries to ac­cept their own cit­i­zens, which ac­counted for 31 per­cent of the de­lays, ac­cord­ing to the au­dit.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found a stag­ger­ing 116 ju­ris­dic­tions were deemed ei­ther un­co­op­er­a­tive or “at risk” of fail­ing to co­op­er­ate with U.S. de­por­ta­tion au­thor­i­ties at some point from July 2015 to May 2018. They ranged from reg­u­lar thorns in the side of U.S. pol­icy, such as China and Cuba, to usu­ally friendly na­tions such as the United King­dom, Swe­den and Nor­way.

If de­lays reach six months, then the mi­grants are usu­ally re­leased back into the U.S.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said that hap­pened in about 40 per­cent of the cases in which gov­ern­ments were re­cal­ci­trant.

Even so, that is likely a ma­jor im­prove­ment from the Obama years. In July 2015, ICE listed 85 coun­tries as un­co­op­er­a­tive or at risk. By May last year, that was down to 33 coun­tries.

Ms. Vaughan called that “one of the rel­a­tively un­her­alded suc­cesses of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion” and cred­ited Home­land Se­cu­rity and the State Depart­ment for be­ing will­ing to pun­ish bad-ac­tor coun­tries.

Still, the in­spec­tor gen­eral said the sit­u­a­tion could be bet­ter.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said the yard­sticks ICE uses to judge other coun­tries’ co­op­er­a­tion — and to rec­om­mend that the State Depart­ment slap visa sanc­tions on those who don’t com­ply — are “not com­pletely re­li­able.” ICE also doesn’t have a co­her­ent method for fig­ur­ing out when to end visa sanc­tions.

For ex­am­ple, Guinea and Sierra Leone had some visas stripped in 2017 de­spite be­ing listed only as “at risk” at the time. Both coun­tries have im­proved and earned their way into the realm of co­op­er­a­tive but re­main un­der sanc­tions.

Mean­while, con­stant bad ac­tors China, Cuba, Iran and Viet­nam, reg­u­larly deemed fully un­co­op­er­a­tive, have not been sanc­tioned.

In one case, a Cuban mi­grant was in de­ten­tion and reg­u­larly at­tacked other mi­grants and the fa­cil­ity’s staff. He had men­tal health is­sues, ac­cord­ing to di­ag­noses.

Be­cause Cuba wouldn’t is­sue doc­u­ments to take the man back, ICE even­tu­ally just re­leased him.

In an­other case, a con­victed sex of­fender from Eritrea had ar­rived in the U.S. as a child and didn’t have any iden­tity doc­u­ments. He also didn’t speak Eritrean. When the Eritrean gov­ern­ment in­ter­viewed him, it re­fused to ac­knowl­edge him as a cit­i­zen, forc­ing ICE to re­lease him into the U.S.

The au­dit also found that ICE strug­gles to fig­ure out the most ef­fi­cient ways to de­port peo­ple, pick­ing be­tween char­ter flights and com­mer­cial air­lines. Some char­ters for high-risk de­por­tees can take months to ar­range, lead­ing to more de­lays.

Mi­grants can thwart de­por­ta­tion by ly­ing about their cit­i­zen­ship or re­fus­ing to help re­quest travel doc­u­ments from their home coun­tries.

One In­dian man in the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s au­dit said he didn’t mind stay­ing in ICE cus­tody be­cause he pre­ferred to be locked up in the U.S. rather than go back to In­dia. ICE fi­nally ob­tained doc­u­ments from In­dia but then en­coun­tered flight de­lays. The man had been in cus­tody more than three years at the time of the au­dit.

The in­spec­tor gen­eral stud­ied the pop­u­la­tion in ICE de­ten­tion, or what those in the in­dus­try call the “de­tained docket.”

Those cases are sup­posed to move much faster than the non-de­tained docket, where mi­grants are free in the com­mu­ni­ties, and it can take years for their cases to be de­cided. They of­ten dis­ap­pear into the shad­ows and ig­nore the courts al­to­gether.

In its of­fi­cial re­sponse to the re­port, ICE said most of the hur­dles that the in­spec­tor gen­eral iden­ti­fied are out of the agency’s con­trol, such as re­ly­ing on for­eign coun­tries or the le­gal sys­tem.

But ICE promised to bet­ter man­age its own staff lev­els, im­prove train­ing of de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers and come up with a bet­ter sched­ul­ing sys­tem to stream­line re­movals.

ICE also said it will roll out a sys­tem next year that tracks how well the agency is do­ing in get­ting travel doc­u­ments to fa­cil­i­tate de­por­ta­tion.

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