Federal immigration officials are missing “aliens posing the highest risk to public safety and national security” due to flaws in the government’s screening process, according to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general (IG).
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials faced “significant limitations” and “significant challenges” in implementing their Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) strategies and their Known or Suspected Terrorist Encounter Protocol (KSTEP) policies, the IG’s auditors found.
As a result, investigators warned that ICE “may have missed opportunities to identify, apprehend, and adjudicate the status of aliens posing the highest risk to public safety and national security.”
“Mitigating and reducing any vulnerability is vital to our nation’s security,” acting Inspector General John Kelly said Tuesday. “We are pleased with ICE’s response to heed our findings by initiating the process to implement all recommendations.”
President Donald Trump elevated immigration enforcement and border security concerns to the forefront of national discourse throughout his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also issued a travel ban temporarily barring immigrants entry from countries particularly compromised by terrorism, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect in December before making its final judgment.
But out of the 40 ERO cases from 2013 to 2015 that auditors reviewed concerning detained illegal immigrants with suspected ties to terrorism, auditors discovered “instances of noncompliance” with KSTEP protocols in every case.
In addition, ICE’s current KSTEP system doesn’t require officials to continue screening illegal immigrants with suspected ties to terrorism after they are released from ICE custody.
“ERO failed to follow procedures from running initial checks to fully documenting its actions,” the report read. “DHS OIG attributes some instances of noncompliance to limited program oversight and weak management controls.”
In order to address the ongoing problems, the auditors issued four recommendations to ICE: the expansion of KSTEP’s screening requirements, improving and rebuilding ERO communication processes, allowing for periodic reviews of available resources, and revamping quality control programs.