By Zachary Stieber
President Joe Biden’s administration doesn’t have information to locate more than 177,000 illegal immigrants it released into the interior of the United States, according to a new watchdog report.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released more than 1.3 million illegal immigrants under federal law into the United States from March 2021 through August 2022. The illegal aliens had crossed into the country from Mexico. DHS workers are required to identify an address prior to releasing each immigrant.
The addresses help in situations such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers tracking down fugitive illegal immigrants.
The DHS inspector general reviewed 981,671 records and found U.S. Border Patrol had not obtained an address or had obtained an invalid address for more than 177,000 released illegal immigrants.
That included illegal immigrants with undeliverable addresses and illegal immigrant addresses at entities such as charities or other government agencies.
“ICE must be able to locate migrants to enforce immigration laws, including to arrest or remove individuals who are considered potential threats to national security. The notable percentage of missing, invalid, or duplicate addresses on file means DHS may not be able to locate migrants following their release into the United States,” the inspector general said in its report. “As the department continues to apprehend and release tens of thousands of migrants each month, valid post-release addresses are essential.”
Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow in law and policy for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that analyzes the impact of immigration on America, said the report showed Border Patrol agents “are so overwhelmed simply apprehending, processing, and—all too often—releasing” the immigrants that they cannot put down legitimate addresses.
“Migrants are plainly gaming our immigration system, and the Biden administration is a willing participant in that game. DHS will not be able to locate the vast majority of the migrants it released who gave invalid addresses, and it’s questionable whether it will be able to find the rest at the valid addresses they gave when they were released,” Mr. Arthur, a former immigration judge, told The Epoch Times via email. “There is a reason why Congress, starting in 1996, required DHS to detain illegal migrants—to ensure they would appear for removal hearings and for deportation. By ignoring that mandate, the Biden administration is destroying all credibility in our immigration system, and undermining our national sovereignty and security.”
Even in some cases where legitimate addresses were provided, some were used repeatedly. DHS released seven families, for instance, who listed a 3-bedroom home in New Jersey as their address over just 70 days. A full 80 percent of the reviewed addresses were used at least twice over the 18-month period, with more than 780 being used over 20 times.
DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari was appointed under President Donald Trump.
DHS said that the immigration system is broken and Congress must fix it.
“Even under those outdated laws, the department has improved how noncitizens are processed and vetted. Individuals seeking to come to the United States are screened by DHS and our intelligence and counterterror partners to prevent anyone who poses a threat from entering the country,” a DHS spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email.
Among the improvements is introducing a new ICE change of address form that has built-in verification.
ICE officials told the inspector general that they might only locate illegal immigrants without proper addresses after they were arrested by state or local police for post-release crimes. Since March 2021, more than 127,000 illegal immigrants released by Border Patrol were arrested, including 5,500 for criminal offenses.
The watchdog made several recommendations, none of which DHS accepted.
The inspector general advised DHS to create a plan for coordinating inside the government for when illegal immigrants do not have a valid U.S. address, and for ICE to validate addresses that are missing or invalid, for ICE to share concerns about addresses with Border Patrol.
DHS said it already coordinates with other agencies on invalid and missing addresses, and that immigrants who miss court dates may be referred to ICE for detention “as appropriate.” The agency also said it would be impractical for ICE to create a new way to verify addresses and that ICE does not have the resources to share concerns with Border Patrol.
In a memorandum to the inspector general, DHS officials said that obtaining valid addresses from illegal immigrants has been an issue since Congress in 1952 passed the Immigration and Nationality Act. It said it has recently made improvements such as the ICE online address form and updating a system to allow more coordination between agencies, and would not be accepting the recommended actions.