Federal government unable to enforce immigration laws effectively

The National Journal has run an analysis of Bush Administration’s struggle to enforce laws pertaining to illegal immigrants. These are 11 to 12 million people, and the government has 325 agents dedicated to rounding them up, and 28,000 holding cells for them. According to the article, the government reported that last year it deported 200,000 persons. However, some 500,000 slipped in illegally. And some 100,000 caught by the government last year disappeared prior to deportation – they were released pending deportation proceedings. Washington is trying to get more expedited deportations (without an judicial review). I doubt the 200,000 figure. I suspect that it includes a lot of people who were nabbed at borders and thus had not penetrated into the United States. The article excerpted below has information on resources used, persons arrested, and the judicial system.
The article, “Washington’s immigration law mess,” reports:


Victor Cerda, former chief counsel of DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, said that Congress would have to give immigration and border-control agencies “a Pentagon-sized budget” to halt all illegal immigration and to locate and expel the 12 million illegals already here. “Even if they gave [DHS] that money overnight, you’re looking at a 10-year process to do the hiring, put in the technology, the processes” to bump up the deportation rate.
Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department, and the federal courts — the three entities that constitute the justice system for illegal aliens — are already overwhelmed by the few hundred thousand immigration cases they handle each year. DHS continually runs out of bed space for detained immigrants; the overcrowding leads officials to release thousands of detainees into this country, where they often disappear.
The Justice Department is reassigning its lawyers — even from its Environmental and Natural Resources Division — to help handle the immigrant caseload. Federal judges have been unable to keep up with a sixfold increase in immigration appeals since 2000; each appeal now takes an average of 27 months. And that’s after the case has spent several months wending its way through the Homeland Security and Justice departments.
Some people criticize the legal system for its treatment of foreign nationals, and some gripe about how it lets a large percentage of detainees slip out of its grasp. Nearly everyone who knows anything about the system agrees on one thing: It’s busted.
[There are] three main ways that illegals fall under the control of U.S. immigration authorities. The most common way is to be caught by the Border Patrol, which polices the vast expanses of territory between legal border crossings and the areas within 100 miles of a border. More than 1 million of the 1.2 million aliens rounded up by the Border Patrol in 2004 were Mexicans. Most were quickly fingerprinted, recorded, and dropped back across the border to try again.
The remaining 200,000 “other-than-Mexicans,” or “OTMs” in Border Patrol parlance, were either detained while their cases were decided or were let loose in the United States after being instructed to show up in court on a given date. (The OTMs cannot simply be sent back across the Rio Grande, because Mexico refuses to accept them.)
The second way to get into the legal system is to be stopped at an official border crossing by immigration inspectors, who, like Border Patrol agents, work for DHS’s Customs and Border Protection bureau. Inspectors blocked 384,000 people from entering the country in 2004. About 317,000 of them voluntarily turned around and went home. The remaining 67,000, like the Barbadian grandmother, were detained while their cases were heard or were released in the United States and asked to appear in court.
The third way is to be caught well inside this country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE agents focus on arresting criminals and people who threaten national security, but they also conduct workplace raids and nab immigration violators who attempt to get legal status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is also part of Homeland Security. In 2004, ICE’s 8,000 agents caught 80,000 illegal immigrants inside the country.
After Homeland Security grabs immigrants, the department’s officers have the authority in some instances to interview them and deport them quickly, without further review. DHS has been increasingly relying on such “expedited removals” to free up space in detention centers and to reduce the number of immigrants who just get released. In 2004, the United States deported some 46,000 illegal immigrants without review, and that number has been growing, according to Homeland Security officials and immigration advocates.
Even with the increase in expedited removals, judges decided 265,000 immigration cases in 2005. Those judges work for the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, the only vestige of the dismantled Immigration and Naturalization Service that was left at DOJ when Congress created Homeland Security in 2003.
This complicated legal system has three potential outcomes: Immigrants go home, get to stay legally, or become fugitives. Last year, 200,000 were deported and 40,000 were granted legal status. More than 100,000 absconded at some point during the legal process; Homeland Security estimates that it actually deported only 66 percent of the aliens whom it had orders to deport.
The American Bar Association is urging Congress to eliminate expedited removal and to guarantee immigrants the opportunity to appear before a judge. The ABA and immigration advocates also want the government to reduce the use of detention and to rely instead on supervised release programs, using ankle bracelets and regular check-ins, for example.
Enforcement advocates, meanwhile, argue that the government should crack down on employers of illegal immigrants as a way to reduce the demand for illegal labor — and ultimately reduce the supply. They also argue that detention policies and quicker removal proceedings act as a deterrent: More detention and faster deportation would reduce the flow of immigrants into the justice system, they say.
One basic fact is that the government will need more judges and lawyers and agents if it wants to force more illegal aliens out of this country quickly.
Another is that the government will have to hire more judges and lawyers and agents if it wants to give more illegal aliens the chance to make their case to stay.
A third basic fact is that if Congress does nothing, immigration cases will continue to overwhelm the U.S. justice system.

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