The Biden administration continues to tout the success of a large Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program for tracking illegal immigrants who have been released into the country, but experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the data is "misleading."
On February 8, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae Johnson wrote to Republican Texas Rep. Pat Fallon that the agency's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, which uses electronic monitors to track illegal immigrants released into the country, has a high rate of success, with more than 99% of participants appearing in court during the first three months of fiscal year 2023.
Former officials, however, claim that the data does not account for all court appearances that illegal immigrants are required to attend throughout the duration of their immigration case adjudication process.
“While I was at ICE, I looked for value in this program and tried to figure out how ATD can be used to advance ICE’s mission and I concluded that the program was not all that helpful. It was a large cost to the taxpayers with limited benefit,” former Chief of Staff at ICE under the Trump administration and now the Director of Investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Jon Feere told the DCNF.
According to ICE, the average time an illegal immigrant spends as an ATD participant is 380.7 days, while it takes an average of 1,621 days to complete asylum proceedings, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
According to an internal Trump-era ICE report obtained by Fox News in April 2022, absconsion rates, or those who fail to appear and court, for the entire case lifecycle of an illegal immigrant enrolled in ATD told a different story than what ICE is now saying.
“A fairly large amount of taxpayer dollars being spent on a program with questionable utility and the government itself struggles to report it accurately," Feere said.
"Members of Congress would be wise to dig into the success claims of this program. If they did, they would very quickly conclude that detention is the only way to ensure that a foreign national shows up to their hearing.
"As we saw under the Trump administration, very large percentages, In fact, the overwhelming majority of aliens on ATD will abscond if given enough time."
According to the report, nearly 90% of ATD participants whose full court proceedings were tracked absconded and were considered "fugitive aliens believed to be living within the United States," and the rates were rising.
“This data illustrate that alternatives to detention are not a replacement for detention and that continuing to release aliens prior to the conclusion of their immigration case will not be successful in creating compliance with the law,” the report said.
“I think it’s very misleading,” former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott recently told the DCNF. “If you follow the full lifecycle, it’s not working.”
“Only 6% of the people that are ordered deported at the end of the process actually leave the country. The main reason everybody shows up to the first hearing is so that they can get work authorization and they can get benefits in the United States because they basically just show the judge, ‘hey, the system is so backed up, It’s going to take years to finish this process," Scott said.
So how am I supposed to live here?’ They get work authorization, they live happily ever after. Even if they’re deported later, they don’t care because they’re not leaving, and no one’s looking for them."