Lack of detention space hinders efforts to track fugitive immigrants

A shortage of space to hold illegal immigrants is hampering the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's efforts to capture fugitives, according to a report released Monday by the Homeland Security Department inspector general.

The report cited ICE Detention and Removal Office officers who said the agency is experiencing a "lack of adequate detention space" that "limits the effectiveness" of fugitive operations.

Fugitive apprehension teams face a backlog that has steadily increased, the report stated. More than 623,000 cases were in the pipeline as of August 2006, the IG found.

"The backlog of fugitive alien cases has increased each fiscal year since the program was established in February 2002," the report said. From September 2001 to August 2006 -- the most recent data available in the report -- the total number fugitives rose nearly 88 percent.

The report put part of the increase squarely on the facilities, and cited one field director who "reported ceasing fugitive operations for six weeks because of insufficient bed space." Another referred to bed space as one fugitive team's "biggest limitation." The report said the backlog "is growing at a rate of more than 50,000 fugitives per year" and that it "is highly improbable that it will be eliminated in the near future."

Sources familiar with detention arrangements for illegal immigrants said DHS is being pushed ever closer to needing to expand its capacity. Federal officials have rented jail space from local institutions, but those are beginning to fill up, the sources said.

"At jails, no one wants to deal with the extra headache of dealing with" illegal immigrants, one source said. "We reached capacity already."

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged a "tremendous strain" on detention facilities last year, when he sought to expedite deportation of illegal immigrants from El Salvador.

In a Dec. 22, 2006, memorandum, ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers told OIG investigators that Congress had allotted the agency additional funds "earmarked specifically to address detention bed space." She also said ICE's adherence to legal requirements sometimes results in aliens being released "where there is not sufficient evidence to believe they pose a risk or flight."

The IG report recommended that DHS and ICE provide the detention and removal component with the resources needed to detain all captured fugitives. It also called for some officers who are not assigned to a fugitive operations team to serve as firearms instructors, jail inspectors or juvenile coordinators.

The report praised fugitive operations teams for coordinating data and intelligence with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, but said that ICE needs to complete the hiring process for the illegal immigrant tracking teams. The report said the agency's failure to do so reduced its effectiveness.

ICE officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.