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Immigration: DHS Doesn't Keep Track Of Its Illegal Immigrant Prosecutorial Discretion Efforts, Inspector General Says

| May 15, 2015 01:23 AM EDT

A new report from the Homeland Security Department's inspector general says the department failed to keep track of the number of times it has used prosecutorial discretion to justify the release of an illegal immigrant.

"DHS does not collect and analyze data on the use of prosecutorial discretion to fully assess its current immigration enforcement activities and to develop future policy. Although the Office of Policy is responsible for developing DHS-wide policies and programs, the Department has not required this office to gather or use data to assess the effect of prosecutorial discretion on immigration enforcement activities," the report reads.

As part of President Obama's immigration reform, officials have been directed to use prosecutorial discretion to decide which illegal immigrants it deports and which are allowed to stay. Immigration agencies are supposed to focus on deporting immigrants found to be major criminals and national security risks, while less serious criminals are given medium priority and well-behaved immigrants are generally to be provided deportation relief.

As a result DHS' failure to collect and analyze prosecutorial data, Inspector General John Roth said, "DHS may not be using government funds as efficiently as possible and may be missing opportunities to strengthen its ability to remove aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety."

The three primary immigration enforcement agencies within DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - receive $21 billion in annual funding.

In some cases, immigration enforcement agents aren't able to access details about an immigrants criminal history or home country. "As a result, aliens convicted of or wanted for a felony committed in their home country, but not convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor in the United States may not be identified as a DHS enforcement priority," the report reads.

ICE was unable to say for sure how many deferred action-eligible immigrants it released from custody, according to the report.

"ICE could not provide the number of [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]-eligible individuals it had released, but it recorded its use of prosecutorial discretion," the report reads. "For example in FY 2014, ICE recorded 12,757 instances in which an ICE officer, after interviewing an individual and determining he or she was not an enforcement priority, used prosecutorial discretion to release the alien. However, according to ICE, the prosecutorial discretion data may not always be accurate and complete. ICE officials noted that field office personnel do not always record their use of prosecutorial discretion because they make these decisions daily and it would be too time consuming to record every occurrence."

Roth recommended that DHS implement a plan "to collect, analyze, and report data on the Department's use of prosecutorial discretion."

Homeland Security officials told The Washington Times that they are already working to collect and analyze that kind of data, and plan to centralize the data to make it easier to reference.

On Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., called for the Obama administration to "end its reckless policies."

"Not only are President Obama's unilaterally-created immigration policies and programs unconstitutional, their implementation has proved to needlessly place Americans and our country at risk," Goodlatte said. "As confirmed by today's Inspector General report, the Department of Homeland Security does not track its use of prosecutorial discretion nor does it always conduct thorough background checks on the individuals benefitting from the Administration's lax policies."

He added: "As a result, the American people are left in the dark about the effects of the Administration's immigration policies and dangerous criminal aliens who have committed a crime in their home country may be able to find amnesty in the United States."

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