DHS Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Enforcement Lifecycle Report

Explaining the methodology behind some significant statistics

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 5, 2021


On December 31, DHS released the "Fiscal Year 2020 Enforcement Lifecycle Report" (available from DHS here and to download from the CIS site here). Why is this significant? Because those 19 datasets combined tell a story connecting encounters and outcomes, but up until now, they have existed independent of one another, and have not been examined as a whole.

If you have never worked in the Rube Goldberg contraption that is the federal government and reviewed its various datasets, you might not appreciate that each is "siloed" in D.C.-speak. Simply, each dataset is a snapshot, not a movie, and only by linking all of them together can you see the whole picture.

Bringing Together "Siloed" Data Points

Let me give you a simple example of how this works in the context of the lifecycle report .

Foreign national X attempts to enter the United States illegally. The Border Patrol stops X (now an "alien" because he is a foreign national in the United States) and interviews him. That information is stored in the first dataset (CBP USBP Apprehensions). He claims fear of return to his home country, and is handed over to ICE to be detained pending an inquiry to determine whether that claim of fear is credible (a "credible fear" interview) — and goes into separate datasets (ICE ERO Initial Book-Ins and ICE ERO Administrative Arrests) .

X is interviewed by an asylum officer (AO) at USCIS, and information about that interview goes into a separate dataset (USCIS Asylum Pre-Screening Officer (APSO)) with that agency. He is found not to have a credible fear (a rarity, though one that goes into the APSO dataset), but he requests review of that decision by an immigration judge (IJ). ICE files notice with the immigration court to initiate credible-fear review proceedings (which goes into a different ICE dataset, ICE ERO Charging Documents Issued).

The alien is termed a "respondent" in proceedings. Of course, the immigration court, which is part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), has its own datasets (DOJ EOIR Schedule, DOJ EOIR Proceedings, and DOJ EOIR Case Information), which it uses to track the respondents in proceedings. A hardcopy credible-fear review record of proceedings (ROP) is created by the immigration court.

The IJ reverses the AO, and the respondent is found to have a credible fear (which goes into one or more of the EOIR databases). Consequentially, ICE files a Notice to Appear (NTA) — the charging document for removal proceedings — with the immigration court.

The immigration court creates a separate hardcopy removal ROP with the charging and credible fear documents, and all of this is entered into the EOIR datasets. The filing of the NTA goes into the ICE ERO Charging Documents Issued dataset, and into the EOIR datasets, as well.

ICE continues to detain X. Somewhere along the way, DHS has also created a hardcopy alien file (A-file), containing documents that X had in his possession when he was encountered, the summary of X's credible-fear interview, the NTA, and documents reflecting the fact that it made a decision that he should be detained.

He appears before the IJ in removal proceedings, and more documents are created that go into the A-file and the ROP. Information related to the master calendar hearing (the initial hearing in immigration court) — such as whether pleadings were taken, whether the respondent was found to be removable, and whether he is seeking any relief from removal (such as asylum) — are all entered into the record, and recorded separately in the ICE and EOIR datasets.

X requests that his detention be reconsidered by the IJ at a bond proceeding. That bond proceeding is off the record (usually), and additional documents may be considered, but the results go into the DOJ EOIR Bonds dataset. Fortunately, separate bond files are not created, and the documents go into the A-file and ROP, respectively.

The IJ orders the respondent released, and ICE appeals. That appeal is sent to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which enters information into the DOJ EOIR Bonds and the DOJ EOIR Appeals datasets. Documents are created that go into a separate EOIR file.

While that is pending (assuming that ICE does not request a stay of the bond order), X is released. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) must keep track of him, and enters his information into a separate DHS database, ICE ERO Final Book-Outs. His case is sent to a non-detained court, where an attorney enters a notice of appearance (assuming that X is not already represented). Copies of the notice of appearance are placed into the A-file and the ROP, and the appearance is entered into ICE and EOIR datasets.

The alien files an application for asylum. That application, and any additional documents, go to the A-file and ROP, and the filing is recorded in the ICE and EOIR datasets.

Thereafter, X applies for employment authorization with USCIS, to legally work while he is in the United States. That request ends up in the USCIS Employment Authorization Document (EAD) dataset, and USCIS will likely request the A-file to adjudicate that request.

The asylum application is denied, and the respondent appeals. The appeal is filed with the BIA, and the ROP is sent to EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Va., for consideration. The filing of the appeal is recorded in ICE and EOIR datasets. If the appeal is denied, that fact goes into ICE and EOIR datasets.

ERO then must request that the alien appear for removal, and if X fails to do so, must try to find him (which, of course, they usually lack the resources to do). If he is removed, information about that removal goes into the ICE Removals & Returns dataset.

If, alternatively, X is granted asylum, he can apply for a green card after a year. That information goes into the USCIS Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) dataset.

Each of these datasets exists independently of one another. The lifecycle report, for the first time, brings them all together.


This analysis simply explains how the lifecycle report was compiled. There are many significant data points therein, which I will discuss in my next post.

It is important to note that while the report describes a set of data points that create a "movie", as I explained above, it is one that will only show once. Cases will be resolved, and aliens will be granted relief or removed the next time that these datasets are examined (assuming that they ever are under a Biden administration).

Simply put, the next premiere of this movie will reveal different facts as more cases involving encounters between FY 2014 and FY 2019 are resolved.