Wills Robinson, Daily Mail, November 17, 2017
Homeland Security is losing track of one in five illegal immigrants who have been trusted to live in communities before they are deported, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement allows more than 73,000 foreigners to live in towns and cities across the United States as part of the controversial Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program.
Instead of being locked up in detention centers, they are allowed to relocate before they are processed and sent back to their native countries.
They are required to check in regularly with immigration officials or wear ankle bracelets so their movements can be tracked.
But figures released to DailyMail.com through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request states ICE is losing track of more than 18% of the individuals chosen to be part of the program — including suspected gang members and residents from President Trump’s six travel ban countries.
Some have wreaked havoc in the communities they have been relocated to, while others are arrested for violent crimes.
The shocking statistics have raised questions as to why potentially dangerous illegal immigrants are being placed in the program, which comes at a huge cost to taxpayers.
The majority that are allowed into the program are from Central America.
The most (18,853) hail from El Salvador — a country that is struggling to deal with deadly gang violence.
Guatemala (18,280), Honduras (15,362) and Mexico (8,343) follow closely behind.
Of those enrolled, 212 come from Trump’s eight travel ban countries.
Immigrants from Romania (1,128) and Armenia (251) make up the highest proportion from Europe, while India (701), Haiti (5,238) and China (701) also feature in the top countries.
Eighteen are from Uzbekistan, the native country of Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, the terror suspect accused of killing eight people by mowing down with a Home Depot truck in New York on Halloween.
He was on a visa and not in the program.
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVES TO THE DETENTION PROGRAM?
The system was put in place by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a way to make sure illegal immigrants to meet the requirements of their ‘detention’, but while still living in the community.
- They use certain methods to keep track of those involved, including:
- Parole/release on own recognizance
- Bond Check-ins at ICE offices Home visits and check-ins
- Telephonic monitoring GPS monitoring through an electronic ankle bracelet
Some are seeking asylum from the brutal MS-13 gang while others are trying to escape the constant violence created by drug cartels.
The documents also show where the illegal immigrants have been permitted to live and how many are residing in each area.
Cities where ATD immigrants are living
Miami, Florida — 5,669
New York, New York — 4,557
Los Angeles, California — 4,083
Houston, Texas — 3,927
Baltimore, Maryland — 3,429
San Francisco, California — 3,085
Newark, New Jersey — 2,561
Dallas, Texas — 2,161
Charlotte, North Carolina — 2,034
Boston, Massachusetts — 1,963
Atlanta, Georgia — 1,759
Washington DC — 1,629
San Diego, California — 1,516
Delray, Florida — 1,388
San Bernardino, California — 1,364
New Orleans, Louisiana — 1,354
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — 1,323
Detroit, Michigan -1,132
Orlando, Florida — 1,112
Nashville, Tennessee — 1,052
Manassas, Virginia — 1,011
Charleston, South Carolina — 1,005
Miami has the highest number of immigrants in the program (5,669), followed by New York (4,557).
Los Angeles, Houston, Baltimore and San Francisco also have more than 3,000 illegal immigrants living among residents waiting to be deported.
The alarming absconder rate raises questions over whether these illegal immigrants should be confined to a detention center, rather than be left in the community.
The ATD program is also expensive for the government. The ankle monitoring is sub-contracted to a host of private companies.
Jessica Vaughan, the Director of Policy Studies for the Center of Immigration Studies, told DailyMail.com: ‘These stats are fascinating. It appears that many of them are asylum seekers, and part of the explosion in asylum seekers in recent years, primarily from Central America, as the citizenship data show.
‘It is very interesting to see the geographic spread of the cases.’
‘The absconder rate is rather concerning. ATD is an expensive option for ICE, and if one out of five are skipping out on their due process, then it is clear that ICE needs to be more careful about who is enrolled.
‘It becomes even more expensive when ICE has to track down people for hearings and deportation, not to mention the fact that they join the rest of the illegal population.
‘When weighing different options for how to deal with asylum seekers, DHS has to balance the need for humane treatment with the need to ensure that the process has some integrity and that people are not gaming the system by filing frivolous asylum claims knowing they will be released with or without a monitoring bracelet.
‘Cost is also a factor, considering that all of this due process is at taxpayer expense. I believe it would be more cost-effective and humane to process asylum seekers as quickly as possible in the border region, where they are usually encountered, and avoid the need for long-term monitoring.’
‘People would get an answer on their claim right away, meaning that the genuine cases will be allowed in immediately to live their new lives, and the people filing bogus cases can be returned home quickly, which makes it much harder for the smugglers who encourage this premeditated asylum fraud to find clients.’
Earlier this month, one member of the program who was wearing an ankle monitor was arrested and charged with murdering a community activist in San Francisco.
On August 14, 23-year-old Abel Ezquivel was shot and killed on the street in the city’s Mission District.
Erick Garcia-Pineda, one of them charged in the slaying, was wearing an ankle monitor issued to him by ICE.
Garcia-Pineda was claiming asylum in the United States — claiming he was being hounded by MS-13 gang members, according to reports.
The gun used in the murder was registered to a San Francisco Police officer and was believed to have been stolen.
In July, it was reported that Romanian immigrants, some of whom who were part of the Alternatives to Detention, were wreaking havoc in the town of California, Pennsylvania.
Furious residents said they were defecating in the streets and publicly decapitating chickens.
Members of the Californian Borough community in Washington County said they were repulsed by the behavior of their new neighbors, with over 600 residents signing a petition demanding that they alter their lifestyle.
‘What I’ve seen is men and children — never usually the women — the men and the children dropping their pants in the middle of the street, defecating, pulling their pants up and going on their way,’ one man told Pittsburgh’s Action 4 News.
Borough leaders the federal government is responsible for relocating the eastern Europeans to their town.
ICE confirmed that they were placed in the town as part of the ATD program.
The same happened with Romanian illegal immigrants who settled in Washington County, California, and provoked outrage among the 7,000 residents.
The families are believed to be Roma, a stateless ethnic minority from Eastern Europe, started arriving.
A spokesman for ICE told DailyMail.com: ‘The Alternative to Detention (ATD) program is a flight-mitigation tool that uses technology and case management to increase compliance with release conditions and facilitate compliance with court appearances and other case requirements.
‘Each case is evaluated individually, and, as such, not every case requires electronic monitoring from release to removal. Individuals can be enrolled and removed from electronic monitoring multiple times before their case is fully adjudicated.
‘The effectiveness of ATD is measured by whether the enrollee has met the requirements necessary within their case that led to them bring enrolled in ATD.
‘Additionally, it is important to note that individuals are enrolled in the appropriate level of supervision based on their individual flight-risk factors , which is crucial to the success of ATD and contributes to the rates of compliance seen throughout the life of the program.’
They also commented on the case involving Garcia-Pineda. They said he was complying with the requirements of his detention until August, when he failed to appear for his scheduled appointment with ICE officials.
He was arrested for domestic violence, but was released from jail and was free at the time of the slaying.
‘U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has lodged an immigration detainer against Mr. Garcia-Pineda. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases indicate he is currently in removal proceedings before the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR),’ they told DailyMail.com.
‘Mr. Garcia-Pineda entered ICE custody in December 2016. He was detained by the agency until April of this year at which time an immigration judge with EOIR ordered Mr. Garcia-Pineda released with the requirement that he wear a GPS monitoring bracelet and report to ICE in-person on a regular basis.
‘Databases indicate Mr. Garcia-Pineda was complying with terms of his release until August when he failed to appear for his scheduled appointment with ICE.
‘It’s important to note that following Mr. Garcia-Pineda’s arrest in September on a domestic violence charge, ICE lodged a detainer against him with the San Francisco County Jail. Despite the detainer, local authorities released him back into the community without providing any notification to ICE.’
‘Records reviewed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicate that Mr. Garcia-Pineda’s GPS ankle bracelet was removed on August 19 while Mr. Garcia-Pineda was physically on the premises of 850 Bryant Street, which is the location of the San Francisco County jail.
‘On that date, the contractor responsible for monitoring aliens released by ICE on ankle bracelets received a tamper alert emitted by Mr. Garcia-Pineda’s device.
‘Subsequently, ICE initiated efforts to locate this individual, but because the tracking device was no longer functioning the search was initially unsuccessful. ICE then communicated with Mr. Garcia-Pineda’s attorney, instructing him to direct his client to report to ICE in person immediately. However, Mr. Garcia-Pineda failed to appear.
‘Following Mr. Garcia-Pineda’s arrest Sept. 3 by the San Francisco Police Department, ICE received an electronic notification through its Secure Communities system and lodged an immigration detainer against him.
Prototype sections of a border wall between Mexico and the United States are under construction in Tijuana
‘As previously stated, local authorities failed to honor that detainer and released Mr. Garcia-Pineda back into the community.
‘However, by that time ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations was aware this individual was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and accordingly didn’t take any action that might impede or jeopardize that investigation.’
Other investigations into ICE by DailyMail.com have uncovered that border officials use private jets to fly immigrants back to their home countries — costing the taxpayers $300,000 every day.
The agency spent $116 million in 2015 to transport 235,413 people in the United States illegally back to their home countries.
More than 40 per cent of those who had violated visa restrictions were convicted criminals while more than 1,000 were identified as gang members.
The ICE revealed to DailyMail.com that the average cost of every immigrant in 2015 was $12,213.
The cost includes identifying the immigrant, apprehending them, placing them in a detention center, their process through immigration court and their subsequent removal.
More documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request also found that housing an alien in the US’ biggest immigration center in Dilley, Texas, costs more than a night’s stay in the nearest five-star hotel.
Jesse Lerner-Kinglake from Just Detention International, a group campaigning to end all sexual abuse behind bars, highlighted the troubling accusations of guards sexually assaulting detainees.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘These reports of staff sexual misconduct paint a depressing picture of US immigration detention facilities. And it’s especially chilling to think how much longer the list of infractions would be if detainees felt safe reporting sexual abuse.
‘The good news is that the Department of Homeland Security’s Prison Rape Elimination Act standards provide a roadmap for protecting all immigration detainees.
‘The incoming Trump Administration must make adopting these rules a priority.’