Report Finds Significant Problems In Removal Of Aliens

Monday, March 19th 2007, 6:54 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Due partly to a shortage of federal agents and poor record-keeping, aliens under court order to be removed from the country often face unconstitutionally long detentions, an inspector general has found.

A report to be released Tuesday by the Homeland Security Department inspector general found that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service is hobbled by outdated databases and inadequate staffing in trying to deal with alien removals.

``Cases are not prioritized to ensure that aliens who are dangerous or whose departure is in the national interest are removed,'' Inspector General Richard Skinner wrote in the report, ``or that their release within the United States is adequately supervised.''

Skinner also concluded that there are vulnerabilities in the agency's approach and that it is ``not well-positioned to oversee the growing detention caseload'' that will result from the Homeland Security Department's emphasis on increasing security on the nation's borders.

Roughly 20 percent of aliens under a final order of removal have been kept locked up past six months, the time the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 should be considered reasonable.

Until that ruling, the government would indefinitely detain aliens who were considered dangerous but who for various reasons could not be returned to their home countries. Some faced danger there, and some home countries refused to accept them.

In the June 2001 ruling, the court said that unless an alien could be proven a danger to the community or the U.S. national interest, he or she could not be held indefinitely.

The inspector general found that ``for those aliens remaining in detention, field office compliance with regulatory review requirements was inconsistent.'' Documents were not always provided and were not always timely, the report said, and some offices used incorrect legal standards and outdated materials.

The report found that in the past five years there was a sharp decline in the numbers of detained Cubans, Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese, reflecting the fact that their countries will not take them back.

Most aliens from those countries, which do not have easy relations with the U.S., are released into the U.S. unless the government meets strict criteria that would allow them to continue to be held as dangerous.

On the other hand, the report found there were higher detention rates for Indians, Haitians, Pakistanis and Chinese nationals, due to their home countries being willing to accept them, but only providing travel documentation after long delays.

In one example, the report noted that in March 2006 there were 246 Chinese being detained and that by June of that year 63 percent, or 156, were still in detention. China had agreed to accept them back but then delayed the charter flights several times, the report said.