MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon. My name is Mark Krikorian. I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
The immigration debate, as it’s going on now, is – politically faces a very – I think the biggest obstacle that it faces is that no one trusts the promises that the supporters of comprehensive reform – so-called – are making. In other words, the whole concept of comprehensive reform – so-called – is that illegal immigrants get legalized, and then enforcement will be promised for the future so we don’t end up in this situation again.
We already – you know, that already happened once in 1986, and there’s a lot of legitimate skepticism. It’s kind of like the old Popeye cartoon. Remember the Wimpy character would go around saying, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Well, you know, the “hamburger” of amnesty was offered in 1986 and Wimpy never got paid. And so that’s the – really the, politically speaking – not in a policy sense necessarily, but the key stumbling block.
And so to address that, this administration has been making these claims about how it’s really super tough on enforcement and it’s – “exhibit A” in that regard is supposedly record deportations. And so the point of the report that we’re going to be talking about today is actually looking at what the data show as opposed to what the press packets say about these claims of record deportations. And I won’t – not to give you spoiler, but they’re not true. (Laughter.)
So the author of the report, Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies here at the center, will be giving a presentation on it. Dan Cadman, retired high official in ICE and INS will be talking about it from his perspective as actually having experience in – with regard to the enforcement side of immigration. But our first commenter is going to be Congressman Lou Barletta because he’s got to head out – head back to the Hill for votes.
Congressman Barletta has been very active in the immigration issue. He’s a former mayor of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which had, like many towns around the country, dealt with immigration problems. But unlike a lot of towns he dealt with it, or tried to deal with it kind of head on, and got some real national notoriety for that and significant real popularity. Correct me if I get the story right, but the – one of the times he ran he was so popular that the Democrats wrote him in, in the primary, as their candidate as well as the Republican candidate.
So he’s got a lot of experience both political and now policy with this issue. And so I wanted to let Congressman Barletta give us some thoughts on these claims about enforcement and then we’ll let him tend to the nation’s business and Jessica will talk about the report in more detail.
REPRESENTATIVE LOU BARLETTA (R-PA): Thank you. I’m honored to be here today. And, you know, let me say for the record that this problem of not enforcing our immigration laws is not something new here. It goes back actually for some time now.
The city that I was mayor of is 2,000 miles away from the nearest southern border. It is not anywhere where you would believe would have an immigration – illegal immigration problem, but we did. Our population grew by 50 percent but our tax revenue remained the same. That’s a pretty incredible statistic for a city to grow so large and yet not see any increase in tax revenue. And there were many problems that followed it, and actually the quality of life in the city was diminished because of our inability to provide services to a larger population with less revenue.
We also saw the problem – we saw higher crime rates, and that’s how we realized there was an illegal immigration problem, was actually through some high-profile crimes that were being committed and during the investigation it was determined many times that the people involved were in the country illegally. Now, I’m not ever saying that the only people who committed crimes in Hazelton were illegal immigrants. What I’m saying is it was how we were able to document the fact that we did have a population in the city that was there illegally, not understanding why and how to deal with it in a small city.
I had the opportunity to go down to Washington and meet with the Department of Justice in 2005, December as a matter of fact. I told them about the problem, the illegal immigration problem I had, of our small budget and our inability to deal with it. And they were great. They brought in a lot of experts to talk to me. And at the end of the day I got this nice coffee mug, I got a lapel pin, a pat on the back and they sent me home – (laughter) – realizing that the federal government was not going to deal with this problem.
A few months later, May 10th, 2006, was the turning point for me as city resident Derrick Kichline, father of three children, 29 years old, while working on his pickup truck had some words with one of the leaders of the Latin Kings who – Pedro Cabrera, who was in the country illegally and arrested seven times before he came to Hazelton, went into his car, took a gun and shot Mr. Kichline in the head, killing him. I had to sit with his parents and explain why this man was still in the country.
That was the turning point for me. I realized I had to do something. I was the first mayor in America to pass a law dealing with illegal immigration, and I was sued and the case went on to the Supreme Court. And that began my – really my quest to try to do something about the problem of illegal immigration. And as I find myself here in Washington still dealing with the problem – and this is where the problem is. It’s right here in Washington with administrations who are unwilling to deal with this problem.
You know, there’s a lot of things I hear, especially now. It’s very interesting to me. You know, one of the things I hear all the time is, you know, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. (Laughter.) I also hear that our borders are more secure now than ever. And, you know, this report today is very, very important because this pokes holes into that false perception that this administration is giving that our borders are more secure. And I believe that is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to set the stage for an amnesty bill. And I believe that’s what we’re seeing here.
Whether it’s a border security bill or any immigration bill, I believe that will be used as a tool to go to conference with the Senate to come out with a pathway to citizenship bill. And the fact that the administration – we don’t need new laws right now. We need an administration who will enforce the laws we already have.
So it’s very interesting for me to hear the administration make the claim that there are more deportations than ever and how tough they have been on those that are in the country illegally, and the fact that our borders are actually more secure now. So therefore I believe the best is yet to come. Therefore we can now begin to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. That’s what I believe is the coming attraction.
And just, again, to add to what you’re going to hear today, on August 20th, 2010, ICE Director John Morton outlined a new department policy that if an arrested illegal alien is not a convicted criminal or a terrorist threat, the case against the defendant will be dropped. 2011, in June, ICE – a directive which ordered ICE agents not to arrest certain broad categories of illegal aliens, including minor criminals – basically all you needed to do was say that, I am a Dreamer and I have been brought here as a child, and they cannot pursue whether or not that is accurate or not.
This prosecutorial discretion, which I believe is illegal – I don’t believe that the president has the authority to use prosecutorial discretion when it comes to immigration – it again flies in the face of the fact that they’re making the claim that our borders are more secure and they are enforcing the laws that we have.
So, you know, 1986, the last time we had amnesty in America, when 1.5 million illegal aliens which they believed were here turned out to be 3 million or more that were given amnesty, Ronald Reagan made a promise to the America people that this will be a one-time deal. We will secure the borders and this will never happen again. Well, here we are with well over 11 million. Our borders are still not secure. And I believe we should keep Ronald Reagan’s promise first and secure the borders before we do anything else.
So I’m happy to participate. And I can stay, so I’m not leaving on anyone. I can stay for a little while.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. And, well, thank you, Congressman. I appreciate it.
So Jessica will start. Feel free, Congressman, if you need to bolt, but you may – you may want to comment on something she says as well.
So, Jessica, over to you.
JESSICA VAUGHAN: All right, thank you and thank you all for being here.
The report that we’re releasing today presents a variety of statistics and metrics that measure and also illustrates the real state of immigration enforcement today. Unlike what is typically available, for example, on the ICE or DHS website, these are fairly raw statistics and data runs, and they’re what the agency managers see in order to evaluate their performance and to know what is happening within the agency. But it’s not usually what the public is able to see and definitely not the kind of material that has been made available to the public in recent years.
And the most important thing that was revealed in this collection of reports that I was able to obtain, and what’s contrary to what is frequently repeated, what you hear at, you know, the vigils and protests and chants of, you know, stop the deportations, you know, no more deportations, and what the amnesty proponents say about record deportations – in fact, ICE enforcement activity has been in decline since 2010, for the last three years now. ICE enforcement activity has declined by 40 percent. And what I’m referring to when I say ICE enforcement activities, primarily interior enforcement as measured by ICE arrests and ICE removals in the interior as opposed to at the border. And this is the activity of the two main component agencies of ICE, one of which is known as Enforcement and Removal Operations, which is ERO, and also Homeland Security Investigations, otherwise known as HSI.
Some of the reports that I was able to obtain showed that what ICE calls now departures or what most people call deportations were going to be 10 percent less in 2013 than 2012. And then just yesterday, I was able to obtain what I was told was the actual total of deportations for 2013. What I produced in the report are projections based on the metrics that I was able to obtain from ICE reports internally. And they were not for the complete year of 2013, so I projected what those were likely to be.
But yesterday I was able to obtain what is apparently the real final numbers for 2013 that were finalized a couple of weeks ago and have been withheld by ICE. The total number of deportations that will be reported by ICE in 2013 is 364,700. That is about 40 percent fewer removals this year than last year and is in fact the lowest level since at least 2008.
This decline has to be of great concern to policy makers and especially to the public. It’s not as if there is a shortage of illegal aliens living in our country that, you know, there’s no one for them to arrest anymore. In fact, we know from other studies that have been done that it looks like illegal entries and the illegal population is increasing. And there’s especially no shortage of criminal aliens in the country.
So it’s important to remember that this decline in removals and in ICE enforcement activity is occurring at a time when ICE has better tools and more resources and more personnel than ever before. So the number of removals really should be rising, but instead it’s falling.
And when you drill down a little bit farther in the report and look at some of the more detailed metrics on ICE -- for example it’s table four in the report, which, by the way, if people have not picked up copies, there are some on the table outside and it will be on our website -- you can see that the most important metrics for ICE interior enforcement activity, detainers, arrests and the charging documents that agents issue when they’re going to put someone on the path to removal, those have dropped 20 (percent) to 25 percent in the last year alone.
These declines occurred in every single ICE field office around the country. Some of these individual field offices had declines of 40 percent or more and one even had about 60 percent – 62 percent to be exact – and that was the Atlanta field office. And it’s really hard to imagine how you could explain a 60 percent decline in enforcement activity in one particular field office. The biggest declines were Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Houston, San Diego and also in this area, the Washington D.C. field office, which covers the District of Columbia and Virginia. They all showed declines in the number of illegal aliens who were charged and the number of criminal aliens who were charged and removed.
Now, Dan Cadman, who’s also on the panel, is going to talk a little bit more about the policies that led to that prosecutorial discretion, which has been mentioned by Mr. Barletta. The administration has maintained that these policies of prosecutorial discretion and some others were necessary to keep ICE focused on the mission of removing the highest priority, which is criminal aliens, noncitizens living here who have committed other crimes, local crimes, whether it’s, you know, murder, rape, larceny, what have you, something in addition to their immigration offense.
But as it turns out, the number of criminal aliens that ICE has removed in the last year has also declined. The 2013 number that ICE is going to report is 216,800, which is a 4 percent decline from last year, 2012.
Now, what you will hear from ICE is that’s the highest percentage of criminal aliens to total removals in one year, 59 percent. I’m sure that’s what they’re going to say. We removed the highest proportion of criminal aliens ever in history, but it’s actually fewer criminal alien removals than before. It’s about 8,000 fewer removals.
And, again, this decline in criminal deportations is true of nearly every ICE field office around the country. In the Washington, D.C./Virginia field office the decline was 25 percent. That’s 1,000 fewer criminal aliens who were removed this year over last year. In a district – in a field office the size of the state of Virginia and the District of Colombia, a thousand more criminal aliens living here than should be, that makes a big difference for public safety.
And, again, it is not because ICE is lacking information on who these people are and what crimes they have committed. They have that information now as a result of the Secure Communities program and other programs that they’ve gotten up and running over the last few years. ICE is choosing not to use its authority and agency leadership is telling agents not to enforce the law.
So it’s reasonable to ask, how is it possible that ICE has been able to claim record-breaking numbers of deportations when in fact they have been in decline? That is not as easy to explain as a line going downhill. They’ve been able to do it, essentially, through smoke and mirrors of reporting types of cases.
There was a program launched in the Southwest border sectors in November of 2010 whereby large numbers of illegal border crossers who were apprehended by the Border Patrol, and instead of the Border Patrol handling them, as would have been in – the case years ago, these individuals were instead bussed to ICE detention facilities in Arizona, California and Texas, booked in, held for about 12 hours and then bussed to a different Border Patrol sector than the one in which they were apprehended and returned at that point. Voila, you have not only a border apprehension to count, but you also have an ICE removal to count.
And the president, himself, has confirmed that that is what’s going on, that’s what’s behind the record deportations. He told a group of journalists almost a year ago that the record-breaking removal numbers were actually a little bit deceptive because they included a large number of Border Patrol cases that were being processed by ICE
So we blew up a couple of the tables from the report for you to see how exactly this plays into the statistics that have been reported. And the first table shows the number – exact numbers of removals that resulted from arrests that were made by all the different component agencies of DHS who make apprehensions of illegal aliens. And, again, this is from internal ICE statistics that have not been made – are typically not made public. But you can see that – and it’s illustrated more simply by the chart below where you see, over the years, the blue line of representing Border Patrol apprehensions that resulted in removals going way up over time, and the red line of regular ICE interior cases going down. And in about 2012 they cross. The percentage of ICE deportations that they are claiming is about – is now, both in 2012 and 2013, about half of the total deportations that they are claiming as record numbers. In the last year of the Bush administration, 2008, Border Patrol cases represented only one-third of total deportation.
So this represents a real shift in focus for ICE. They’re basically spending at least half of their productivity processing Border Patrol cases instead of working cases in the interior. And so that’s essentially the story of the smoke and mirrors that they have allowed to, you know – or sought to define their record of what they call smarter, more effective Border Patrol – excuse me, “smarter, more effective immigration enforcement.”
And if I have time, there’s one last statistic from the report that I’d like to point out to you, which is in the report in both Table 4 and Table 8. The metrics that I was able to obtain from ICE showed that right now ICE is carrying a caseload of a total of 1.8 million cases on its docket. And that’s broken down into people who are pending a final decision and people who have already received a final decision that was – they were ordered removed. And these are called the post-final order docket.
That includes people who have been processed, been to court, told their story and been ordered removed but who are still living here in the country. If there is one single statistic that I think illustrates the utter dysfunction of our immigration system, it’s that number: 872,000 cases on ICE’s docket who are what they call post-final order, which means that they have been ordered removed and are still living here.
Some of them are in detention, a very small number, but there are 860,000 of them who are not in detention and who likely will not be removed. Some didn’t show up for hearings. Others didn’t show up for their removal. But there is no other court system in our nation that would tolerate such contempt of decisions made in the system, and we shouldn’t either. So the first order of business as Congress contemplates immigration reform ought to be, as Mr. Barletta said, to enforce the laws we have and restore some credibility to the immigration enforcement system that we have.
And so now I’ll turn the microphone over to Dan Cadman, who’s going to put all of this into a little more context, based on his experience.
DAN CADMAN: The administration asserts on the one hand that a broad-based amnesty covering millions of aliens illegally in the United States is sorely needed because our immigration system is broken beyond repair. They assert that the amnesty will permit a setting of the immigration clock back to zero so that legislators can craft new policies and processes to ensure that we will never need another amnesty again. On the other hand, though, the administration also asserts that border and interior immigration enforcement have never been so thorough, so robust and so far reaching.
Neither assertion is empirically provable based on the available information and evidence. But putting that aside just for a moment, it’s only when you put both of those assertions in juxtaposition and consider them that the illogic of making both assertions at the same time becomes obvious: If our immigration system is so irreparably broken, how can the federal officers who are responsible for immigration matters both at the border and in the interior possibly be doing such a bang-up job?
But to go back to each assertion standing on its own merits, not only is each unproven and unprovable, but one of them, the assertion that border and interior enforcement have never been so superlative, is demonstrably false, as Jessica has found and pointed out.
It’s notable that the administration has worked so hard to withhold the statistics that Jessica has presented, and many others as well, from public view, and not just with Jessica but many other groups on both spectrums of the immigration debate as well. They have gone to extreme lengths and fought lengthy and shockingly expensive Freedom of Information Act lawsuits in court to avoid providing the statistics.
One example of such litigation occurred in the Southern District of New York over the Secure Communities program. Such attempts to fight or obstruct disclosure through litigation have, in nearly every instance, failed, as they did with the Secure Community suit. And so how has the administration reacted?
First, they still withhold data because they know that not everyone has the deep pockets needed to file and to sustain long-lasting lawsuits in federal court to force the disclosures.
Second, in several instances they have simply stopped collecting or reporting on sensitive data that they fear will make them look bad or that can be used against them, a case in point being the number of denials of applications and petitions filed with USCIS, the benefits-granting arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
And, third, where enforcement actions are concerned, they’ve gone beyond spin right down to statistical manipulation to try to make the data say what they want it to say. Among the most glaring examples of that manipulation is the never-before-permitted practice of letting the interior enforcement arm, ICE, adopt Border Patrol apprehensions if they hold the alien even for so long as an hour in one of their border detention facilities such as El Paso or Port Isabel for the purpose of removal. This then permits ICE to claim the removal as their own even though they did absolutely nothing to locate, detect or actually take into custody the alien in question.
And it is only this practice that has permitted ICE to tout record levels of removals. And it was only after some die-hard skeptics and a few journalists began to dig into the numbers that then-ICE Director John Morton was obliged to deny that his agency had, quote, “cooked the books,” and resulted in the president acknowledging that the numbers were, quote, “a little bit deceptive.”
We have to assume that this substantial change in policy in how the statistics are counted was directed at senior levels of the Department of Homeland Security, given that it involved fundamentally altering the work measures of two distinct, large and very complex organizations – each, if left to its own devices, with a vested interest in showing the highest possible productivity.
For over a hundred years both the Border Patrol and the interior enforcement agents involved in law enforcement have hewn to the well-tested fishermen’s principle: If you catch him, you clean him. Translated into enforcement work, the principle means that a case, with all of its paperwork and all of its attendant tedium but also with all of its statistical strength, belongs uniquely to the agency that effected the apprehension in the first place.
Why would the administration have endorsed or, at a minimum, condoned such a practice which smacks of deceit? The answer seems to me to be self-evident. Bloating ICE statistics was intended to help the administration make the case that interior enforcement has never been better. It has also had, from their point of view, the delightful corollary effect of permitting the administration to point to lower Border Patrol removal statistics as proof that the border too is more secure than ever.
And combining both premises together has permitted the administration to publicly argue the logical but false syllogism that these ingredients are exactly what is needed to be in place to convince conservatives and the enforcement-minded that an amnesty can be undertaken with no significant adverse future effects on curbing illegal immigration.
Not surprisingly, the administration’s manipulations have succeeded, at least to some degree, in influencing the debate. This is frankly because they count on the glazeover factor. They know that when policymakers, wonks, special interest groups or whomever start speaking about immigration, many, if not most Americans’ eyes start to glaze over. They figure it’s too complicated to understand, or that they’re going to be lied to anyway.
And so this glazeover factor inevitably works to the advantage of the statistical manipulators. But if you really want to understand how seriously all of this heightened border and interior enforcement is taken, look to those who are most directly affected: aliens who are illegally in the United States or those who are contemplating illegal entry, because unlike the American public, they have a direct and keen interest in going beyond press releases and pontification to see what’s really going on. And in that singular instance, the statistics don’t lie.
Twenty-seven percent of the aliens that the border patrol arrests have been previously deported. Twenty-four percent of the aliens arrested by ICE agents in the interior have also been previously deported. Think about that. One out of every four aliens arrested, whether directly at the border or in the interior throughout the continental United States, has been removed previously. They’re obviously not being deterred by the tough talk, and given that the policy priority of this administration is the deportation of criminals, there is every reason to think that many of those prior deports who worked their way back to the United States – most especially those who elude the border patrol and ICE and end up in our communities – are felons.
Despite all of the government’s manipulations, Jessica has also managed to ferret out from the statistics the very disturbing fact that ICE removals are plummeting nationwide, down by 20 percent from last federal year – 2012 – and headed further south. Even more disturbing is that one of ICE’s two major divisions – Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, now accounts for only 4 percent of the immigration workload.
The dirty little secret here is that the forced merger into ICE of U.S. Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Service plain clothes agents never took hold. Neither the senior officials at ICE nor its parent at Department of Homeland Security have shown the leadership capability that is required to forge a new organizational identity that incorporates both important facets of work.
Instead, HSI has become the refuge of former customs agents, many of whom disdain immigration work. Thus, a mini-customs mindset has developed within HSI division, leaving only enforcement and removal operations within ICE to conduct immigration enforcement operations throughout the United States. And there is little, if any, integration of the two divisions horizontally across this dysfunctional agency.
And this reference to dysfunction leads me to back to the administration’s premise for comprehensive reform, which is the catchphrase used to embody amnesty, a word that they strive never to use. The administration would have us believe that the system is so broken that comprehensive reform is absolutely critical to setting things to rights. I don’t dispute that there is a great deal of dysfunction, but it seems to me that much of that dysfunction is a self-inflicted wound. I’m reminded of the overconfident man who starts tinkering with his finely-tuned, extremely complex Swiss watch – just a little at first, but before you know it, all of the cogs, the springs and mechanisms are scattered about on his desk, at which point he complains that his timepiece no longer works.
Consider, at the beginning of the administration, then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano sent her friend and confidant, Dora Schriro, over to work with Director Morton at ICE so that they could develop policies to ameliorate the harshness of conditions for aliens held in detention pending hearing and removal
The consequence was a series of policy decisions significantly restricting the use of detention in favor of other alternatives, but as Jessica has noted, there are now substantially more than 800,000 alien fugitives in this country who have fled from their proceedings rather than face deportation. Such a huge number – it staggers the mind – close to a million aliens who have made a mockery of our system because they were not detained and obviously had no significant restraints upon them to mitigate the chance that they would flee. If this were the criminal justice system, there would be howls of outrage from our political leaders and dismay from the public at large. But because this deals with immigration, it escapes largely unnoticed.
It seems clear to me that when senior officials begin tinkering with the cogs and springs of our immigration system, they should have some idea of what they’re about. It also seems clear to me that when new policies are set in place with the potential to go awry, there should be metrics to measure whether the new policies are having the right effect or whether they are skewing other equally important portions of the system at play.
But finally, it also appears clear to me that when tinkering with detention policies, the impact on the other portions of the system, such as proper functioning of the immigration courts or the integrity of the removal system, were never a priority consideration for officials in this administration, because in their view, to put humane and detention into the same sentence is an oxymoron. The intent was never to create policies that balanced the requirement to accord individuals their humanity and respect while yet insuring that the immigration system didn’t falter under and overwhelming burden of no-shows who melt into the country and disappear.
Just as former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff made his signal immigration policy the end of catch-and-release, Secretary Napolitano determined to make hers the end of the end of catch-and-release, and be damned with the consequences. This willingness to treat the immigration law regulations and policies as silly putty is equally evident in the administration’s misuse of prosecutorial discretion as a method of flushing tens of thousands of cases from the immigration courts and removal system.
It’s not, in the long run, in the best interests of those aliens who have no permanent capacity to remain or live and work legally. They live in an immigration limbo, and this is a situation that the administration has been willing to bet on – at those aliens’ expense – will translate into amnesty if it can only burden the system so onerously that, in the end, it does break. This should not be allowed to happen.
Serious enforcement measures are needed to prevent another buildup of illegal aliens, such as did happen since the passage of the much-ballyhooed but now discredited Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which has come to be understood universally as a failure where curbing illegal entry to the United States is concerned.
And there is nothing at all in the Senate reform bill that would give comfort to those of us who are concerned with the need for immigration law enforcement in the interior. Instead, there is the same tired old effort at throwing huge amounts of cash and positions at the border patrol as a (sop ?) to public opinion, but this will do little to fix our immigration problem. Over 40 percent – nearly half of the aliens illegally in the U.S. originally entered legally through ports of entry such as Dulles International, JFK, O’Hare, LAX and Miami International. You can stand border patrol agents shoulder to shoulder along both the northern and southern physical frontiers like a human picket fence, and their presence would do nothing to stop future visa violators and overstays.
But even if there were significant interior enforcement provisions in the Senate bill, when you think about comprehensive immigration reform, you have to ask yourself whether you can really trust the administration to show balance between amnesty and even the smallest, most token effort in enforcing the law. I don’t. Having achieved amnesty, there is no reason to believe that the administration will do anything differently than they have already done with regard to immigration enforcement, which is fundamentally to dismantle it while playing sleight of hand with statistics.
Establishing integrity and credible enforcement in the immigration system is not among their core values. It is not a pressing priority. And by the time the American public wakes up to the duplicity of another broad-based amnesty, coupled with shadow enforcement measures that never quite take effect only to find in another decade or two that there is once again a logjam of illegal aliens wiling away their time waiting for another serial amnesty, the leaders responsible will be long gone. Who will we hold accountable then?
So my question to the Congress, and most particularly, to the House of Representatives, is this: Why go along with such a sham? Why give open borders advocates an easy victory when it is so clearly contrary to the country’s interests?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Dan. And so now we’ll take questions for Jessica or for Dan. If you have a question, please identify yourself – and there’s a microphone up there, so wait till you get the mic to ask a question.
Q: Hi. I’m from the Washington Post. I have a technical, eyes-glazed-over question for Mr. Cadmon, and then just a general question for any of you. You talked a lot about this sort of – moving around the numbers from Border Patrol to ICE and on the border area – are you saying that they’re doing a double count or simply that they’re just moving the numbers from one to another? You’re not saying they’re counting a Border Patrol, and then the ICE moments in detention as two people? You’re not –
MR. CADMAN: No, they’re not – they’re splitting the apprehension and the removal. They are not counting the removal twice. They are shifting that removal, and in order to do that, it seems to me they’ve actually tinkered with the – with the alien transportation and detention system to give it a facially legitimate cover by ensuring that those aliens get put into ICE detention for a minimal amount of time. You put them into an ICE detention center long enough to kind of bless them with, you’re now in ICE removal; you’re not a border patrol removal, even if they get put back on a Border Patrol bus and moved across –
Q: Right, but I guess my question is – I mean, aside from the fact that there is this sort of internal fight going on, how does that effect the overall picture? I didn’t quite understand that.
MS. VAUGHAN: That’s actually a very good question and one that I tried to identify in going through these numbers, because each agency keeps its own separate numbers, and some of them are in the report. There is a document that talks about Border Patrol apprehensions by case disposition, and that shows how each Border Patrol – each case of the Border Patrol was resolved. Many of them are removals; those removals were carried out by ICE.
ICE is also reporting removals according to which agency made the referral. So if you’re looking at these sets of information separately, the same cases are counted in both different sets. What I was told by sources is that the way the case tracking system works is that when the individual is apprehended by Border Patrol, goes into the ICE service processing center – the detention facility. They’re bussed over – let’s say they were apprehended in Arizona and bussed over to the El Paso sector and removed. When that removal – that the system automatically updates the original record for both ICE and the Border Patrol to, you know, put a hash mark or whatever it does, you know, in the computer system to add another removal to both of those systems – both Border Patrol and ICE. And I was also told that if the individual was held in two different ICE facilities, that would become two cases for ICE, and it would – could be two cases for the Border Patrol, too, if they were apprehended in one sector and removed in another.
The name for this program is called the Alien Transfer and Exit Program. And so there are lots of different sectors involved and different detention centers and field offices. And the question I had was, when all these numbers get funneled into the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics, which produces an annual number for all removals and all returns, are these duplicates removed?
I was never able to get an answer. It was suggested to me that they’re not. I don’t know that for sure, but looking at all the different numbers I saw, I don’t think they do get the duplicates removed, as you can do with your own Access or Excel program, because they all have case identifiers. They’re all fingerprinted. They could. But I think that would be a very good question to ask them to resolve that ambiguity.
MR. CADMAN: But if – sorry, I forget this is here. If one of the imports of your question is, what does it matter, it matters because it masks the fact that ICE isn’t nearly as productive as you would think. People have a right to know what their agency, you know, statistics are; whether the agency is in fact giving value for dollar. They’ve gotten a lot of resources in recent years and a lot of capital resources, a lot of detention beds and a lot of officers. And if they’re masking those numbers, how can you possibly know whether they’re effective or whether in fact they’ve started to step away from their primary mission?
One of the other figures that I believe is in Jessica’s report that I find deeply disturbing is, if you look – there is a figure called encounters. There are well over 700,000 encounters. An encounter is an officer physically making contact with an alien who is illegally in the United States. But if you look at the removals, you have to ask – at the removals, which are, what, half of that, less than half?
MS. VAUGHAN: 2013, it’s – for ICE ERO, it’s about – less than 170,000, 170,000 encounters.
MR. CADMAN: What’s happening after that ICE officer encounters the alien? Is he just walking away because of, you know, the guidelines for deferred-action childhood arrivals, for prosecutorial discretion, for don’t lay detainers on these individuals who have been booked into a county jail? How could – how could officers be encountering 700-plus-thousand illegal aliens and only result in a workload of about half that? There is something seriously wrong with that statistic.
MS. VAUGHN: I just – I’m sorry. I don’t mean to suggest that I think the Department of Homeland Security created the Alien Transfer and Exit Program in order to, you know, be able to pump ICE’s numbers, but I think that the existence of that program and the way those cases are tracked has simply enabled them to hide the poor performance of ICE in interior enforcement behind the border patrol cases that were being taken over by the agency.
Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Q: I did have one broad question that I wanted to ask whoever. Maybe Mark would like to answer. Is it your position as an organization that the great majority of illegal aliens now in this country could and should and can be deported?
MR. KRIKORIAN: We don’t have a specific position on that, but I mean there’s no question that we could be deporting significantly more people than we’re deporting now. I mean it seems to me beyond that it’s not an issue of what one’s position is. But yes, of course, more people could be and should be deported than are deported now.
MR. CADMAN: There’s also the impact that strong enforcement across the spectrum has on aliens deciding whether to cross to begin with or in deciding whether or not they want to make their future back in their home country. If they find that it becomes difficult, near impossible, to obtain gainful employment using fraudulent identification or, in any way that they can, defeating the verification systems, whether it’s by duping the employer or quite frequently with a wink and a nod from the employer who suspects the identification presented is bad but, you know, is perfectly willing to take it at face value.
So I think sometimes it’s not just a question of the government physically putting their hands and cuffs on aliens. The tenor of enforcement and the tenor an agency and a government and an administration’s willingness to take on enforcement has a great impact on decisions that aliens make, because they’re rational people just like all the rest of us. They make judgments about what is likely to make their lives easier or harder. And if they think they can stay here and work profitably for a long time and maybe even have an encounter with an immigration officer who walks away from them, why wouldn’t they stay?
MR. KRIKORIAN: We had another question here? Julie? OK, yeah, good, and then you, sir.
Q: I was wondering, in the transferring of aliens from one place to another, if you’re able to figure out how many resources are devoted to that, to basically unnecessary transfers.
MS. VAUGHAN: That’s a good question. The program – my understanding is that the program has been studied within DHS, although I have not seen any public reports on the cost-effectiveness of it or its effectiveness in deterring multiple crossings. I haven’t seen it. They may have done it.
I was told that officially the alien transfer exit program has been discontinued, although it could be continuing under another name or – you know, I don’t know.
MR. KRIKORIAN: But there is a rationale. I mean, there is an enforcement rationale for that kind of program. In other words, the point being you return illegal immigrants – you know, if you caught them here – you know, they came from Tijuana and then you returned them to Nogales, that they don’t – that the smuggling ring they were involved with is no longer there. There’s a rationale. It may be a good idea, may not; it may be cost-effective, it may not. But I mean it’s not purely make-work. There actually is kind of a point to that sort of thing.
MS. VAUGHAN: In theory, but we don’t know if it works.
MR. KRIKORIAN: In theory. In theory, yeah.
Q: Thank you. Martin Johnson (sp). I’m a law enforcement training person. Two quick things for Mr. Cadman. Did I understand correctly a statistic that 40 percent of people illegally in the United States now entered legally, or did I misunderstand?
MR. CADMAN: No, you didn’t misunderstand that.
Q: OK. So they’d be visa overstays or just people who decided, I don’t feel like going anywhere.
MR. CADMAN: Yeah. They came for – were admitted to the United States for a finite period of time, whether as tourists or as non-immigrant students or, you know, any of the – or visa waiver tourists, people who come as tourists but they’re from countries where a visa isn’t necessary but that’s a technicality. The point is they were admitted into the United States for a finite period of time, to visit or to attend school, not to gain jobs, and they just decide I’m not going home, I’m going to get a job, I’m going to stay and I’m going to melt into society, and they do.
Q: And so technically usually referred to as a legal non-immigrant, correct? Unless I’m missing my terminology.
MR. CADMAN: I’m sorry, I didn’t –
Q: So those people would be referred to originally as legal non-immigrants.
MR. CADMAN: Yes.
Q: So a person non-permanent.
MR. CADMAN: Correct.
Q: And if I may, a second one. Any stats on illegal – presence of illegal aliens or entry of illegal aliens from countries which are state sponsors of terrorism involved in this study, or anything you’d like to comment?
MS. VAUGHAN: Well, as far as within the overstay population, we don’t know because the Department of Homeland Security has not released the results of analyses that they’ve done internally to know which countries the overstayers came from. We simply, because of the lack of an entry-exit system, don’t have that information. And what little they do know, they haven’t released.
Q: Outside of the visa overstays, how about the illegal border crossers? Same question, but the other group of people.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Jessica doesn’t deal with it in the report. I mean, I don’t want to interrupt you, Dan, but I mean that’s not part of what’s in the report. But go ahead.
MS. VAUGHAN: There are Border Patrol statistics available on apprehensions by country of citizenship.
MR. CADMAN: I think it’s fair to say that if you can think of any country whose citizens or nationals come to the United States, some portion of them stay and they stay illegally. And a surprising number of countries whose interests don’t always align well with ours send their citizens to the United States for a variety of reasons. It’s not unreasonable at all to say that some numbers of countries which may be designated as state sponsors of terror have citizens residing in the United States illegally. It would be impossible for that not to be the case.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I had actually kind of a quick question. ICE has all these extra resources. They’re deporting dramatically fewer people. So what are they doing? What is ICE doing? I mean, you see press releases sometimes on, you know, counterfeit contact lens dealers, that kind of thing. So I was just wondering what kind of things ICE is doing.
MS. VAUGHAN: Returning stolen antiquities –
MR.. KRIKORIAN: Right.
MS. VAUGHAN: – tracking down child porn purveyors, enforcing the Lacey Act, which prevents the importation of plants and other things that have been illegally obtained. They put out their top-10 list last week of laws you didn’t know ICE enforced. I expected to see the Immigration and Nationality Act as number one. (Laughter.)
MR. CADMAN: I don’t think any of us suggests that – you know, that ICE’s investigative efforts should not involve certain kinds of contraband that seriously and adversely affect the public health and safety, but when you find that an entire division of special agents is now only doing 4 percent of the immigration work, that is stunning to me – stunning.
MS. VAUGHAN: When they’re responsible for worksite enforcement and transnational gang operations and all kinds of – alien smuggling gets investigated much less frequently now than it used to be when the Border Patrol did it.
MR. CADMAN: And alien smuggling is not a victimless crime. Many of the aliens who are smuggled into the United States are held in mere chattel conditions, or they are held under extortionate circumstances until their friends or relatives in the United States pony up another 5(,000 dollars) or $10,000. They are not well treated. Many of them are imported to the United States to work in sweat shops or in brothels. And yet HSI seems to be turning a blind eye to a lot of that kind of enforcement.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Any other questions? Go ahead.
Q: (Off mic) – a microphone?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah.
Q: So if I could just – because I do think it is very complicated. I want to make sure I understand.
Essentially, if I had to kind of simplify it – and maybe when you simplify it you lose stuff, but essentially, it’s this reclassification of things that probably are more aptly described as apprehensions – things that the Border Patrol does near or at the border – as interior enforcement is what has allowed them to say that deportations, which most of us think of as interior enforcement, is at a record level. But when you take out this Border Patrol activity that would normally be seen a Border Patrol activity, there really has been a decline in enforcement. Is that a fair way of summing it up?
MS. VAUGHAN: Yes, that is a fair way of summing it up, that without the additional cases from the border, ICE is – or overall deportation numbers would have declined. And, in fact, what we now know is overall numbers of deportations for 2013 have declined even with –
MR. CADMAN: Even with –
MS. VAUGHAN: – some unknown number of Border Patrol cases.
MR. CADMAN: So now – so then the final count –
MS. VAUGHAN: And if you’re interested in interior enforcement, it’s clear that activity has declined quite substantially over the last three years.
Q: So the question then is, is it intentional to falsely create the idea of very robust interior enforcement, or is it just kind of a bureaucratic thing that developed and they’re like: Oh, well, we can say it, you know, if anyone catches us. (Laughter.) In other words, is it – how conscious is it, do you think? Do you think they’re being intentionally deceptive?
MR. CADMAN: If you get called on it, as John Morton was, wouldn’t you think you’d take a step back and ask yourself whether the way you’re going about this deserves a second look? Wouldn’t you want the public to know exactly how productive you are without having to borrow or adopt someone else’s work?
MR. KRIKORIAN: I mean, I think the answer to that is – I mean, obviously, you know, as Queen Elizabeth I once said, I have no window on men’s souls. So nobody at the White House calls me up and says, you know, this is really what we’re planning.
On the other hand, if you follow the debate, everybody who is a spokesman for the pro-comprehensive side without exception points to the supposed record level of – that’s the words they use. I mean, it’s almost like bees in a hive all saying the same thing: record level of deportations. It’s a mantra.
And there’s a reason – there has to be a reason for that. They figured out this is the thing they can do in order to create this talking point, the point of which – as Dan had pointed out and as the congressman had pointed out – is to be able to say: Look, we have this record level of deportations. You can trust us with – to enforce the law tomorrow, on “Tuesday,” if you give us the amnesty “hamburger” today. I mean, that’s what it amounts to.
So I have to say I am – you know, without anyone telling me this – Cecilia Muñoz does not consult me – but I can say that I feel 100 percent certain this is intentional. I don’t want to speak for Dan or Jessica but I have absolutely no doubt that it’s intentional.
MR. CADMAN: I think at some point it maybe doesn’t even matter. If it’s wrong and someone calls you on it and you stupidly did it, shouldn’t you take a step back?
MR. KRIKORIAN: It becomes intentional at that point, if you will.
MS. VAUGHAN: Or release the breakdown so that people can see what the real numbers are and make their own judgment as to whether that should be considered, you know, deportations or – you know, if – you know, just give people the information to decide for themselves, you know, what the state of immigration enforcement is.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Is there a question in the back?
Q: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Claudia (sp). Thank you for the report. My question would come in terms of what we know as mixed-status families, because the reality is that this enforcement is very real in terms of family. So what are your thoughts in terms of deportations, which – whether they’re very high or low, to your perspective – deportations in families where you do have U.S. citizen children or U.S. citizen siblings? I’m part of the 40 percent that you’ve spoken about. I came here with my family actually not by choice, neither my parents or myself.
So I guess I’m not sure what you would like to do with a person like myself, but I actually – while I was here visiting my sister became very ill. My parents are both former engineers. My dad worked for IBM in Central America for many years. He works here – tries to at least. But my sister’s case, it was an illness, right? She was diagnosed with leukemia, which is a very real issue. But I have U.S. citizen siblings, I have U.S. citizen friends, and I have U.S. citizen family and there hasn’t been a pathway for me in the system.
And I am open to conversations on enforcement. In fact, that is most of the work that I do was working on local enforcement for the Silicon Valley, where I am from, where I’ve lived for the past eight years. So I guess my question for you is a very honest question: What would you want to do with families that are in mixed statuses, because I think that’s a problem that’s really hurting America. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Anybody want to take it?
MS. VAUGHAN: I think families have to make those choices. I’ve lived overseas as well as a kid in high school. My parents came back to the United States. I went with my family, and they wouldn’t have had it any other way. There is no rule that U.S. citizens have to live in the United States. And, you know, those are the decisions – we should not change our policies to overcome what may turn out to be mistaken choices that people make.
Q: So this would be the case of, for instance, U.S. children born here in foster care because their parents have been deported, because you mentioned that you lived overseas but you were able to come back, right, to the U.S. You came with your family – (inaudible).
MS. VAUGHAN: Right. I liked the country I lived in. I would have loved to have stayed longer but my parents brought me back with them.
Q: So that was a choice.
MS. VAUGHAN: Right.
Q: My parents –
MS. VAUGHAN: Well, not for me. I went with my parents, you know, but –
MR. CADMAN: I think –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Go ahead, Dan, and then we’re going to take another question.
MR. CADMAN: I think one of the – I guess I have several answers for you all at the same time. And the first is, one of the problems that I perceive of in the way the administration has been – has overused, perhaps abused, prosecutorial discretion and deferred action is that when you really have a meritorious case – you talked about leukemia – that ceases to have as much meaning, because that was a category that used to be used for cases of people facing life-threatening disease, and it not only was used for those people but it was used for the nuclear family that needed to be around those people.
That’s no longer the case. Situations such as yours get lost in the dross of tens of thousands of people who are all kind of blessed with prosecutorial discretion or deferred action. So it loses its meaning for people in seriously distraught situations. That’s one answer.
The second answer is – is perhaps a little tough, but it’s this: What does your country of birth do with people who overstay there? I assume they have immigration laws and I assume that they enforce them. Mexico enforces its immigration laws, particularly against Salvadorans and Guatemalans, and often pretty harshly.
There are not always quick, clean answers for the questions that you’ve posed but there is certainly a uniformity that every country in the world exhibits its self-interest in its immigration laws, and they try and find a way to balance the humane with the need and the understanding that if at some point you lose control, there is no immigration policy anymore.
And that leads me to my third answer, and that is it is a disservice to the children of people like your parents, whether they are citizens or illegal aliens or anything in between, if the authorities who are charged with doing enforcement walk away from it or are so lax that families are allowed to develop so long that they develop these intertwining relationships with the country.
It is in some ways – putting aside leukemia, it is in some ways more humane to quickly and effectively send people back home and require them to make their lives in the country that they came from – assuming that they are not legitimate asylees or refugees – than it is to allow them to grow roots in a country where they’re in limbo forever.
MR. KRIKORIAN: The last question was Pamela? Over here, yeah.
Q: I’m sorry that –
MR. KRIKORIAN: We’re taking another question. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Go ahead.
Q: This is for Jessica. You mentioned something really interesting. If I’m mistaking the number, just change it. I think you said that there are more than 800,000 people with final orders of deportation who are still in the country. My – I’m sorry, two questions.
One, why is that the case? Why aren’t they being deported? Is it because they can’t be found or what are the reasons? That also goes to the question, what is ICE doing? And then, number two, if you have this large population that’s potentially ready to be deported, don’t you think that an administration that was trying to beef up its deportation numbers would deport them? Thank you.
MS. VAUGHAN: OK. There are a couple of reasons why people may still be here after they’ve received a final order of deportation. One reason that applies to a small number of people – and this is discussed in the report – is because their home country will not accept them back. They either slow-walk travel documents or is dysfunctional or, you know, we don’t have repatriation treaty, and they essentially cannot be removed for that reason. That’s a very small set, you know, of the 800-some-thousand.
The other reason is because – they are still living here because they are able to. They are not priorities for removal necessarily. They don’t find themselves in situations where they come to the attention of ICE. And if they do, under current policies they do not – they don’t fall – because they, you know, for most of them have not committed other crimes, are not considered a priority and ICE simply lets them go.
Why ICE doesn’t go after them to boost their numbers? Well, for many years there was a concerted effort to reduce the size of this population, which some call the “absconders.” ICE started up fugitive operations teams in I think probably every field office. With a new administration they changed their priorities and decided that the only people who would be apprehended by those fugitive teams were people who had committed other serious crimes. So they’ve simply dropped off the high-priority part of the docket.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Dan?
MR. CADMAN: And, you know, by the time someone reaches a post-final order circumstance, a tremendous amount of time and energy and money has been spent to put them into that circumstance. And without the will and the intent to do something, I have to – I have to believe that the immigration judges are scratching their heads asking themselves: What are we doing and why are we doing it? We’re just churning out these orders of removal that ICE doesn’t seem to care about.
It becomes a kind of theater of the absurd that – again, if it was the criminal justice system, no one would put up with that, nobody.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Dan. Yeah, “theater of the absurd” is a good note to end on because that’s much of what our immigration system really is.
I think our speakers are here to be accosted afterwards if you’d like, but I want to respect people’s time so they can get out. Thank you very much. And the report is outside. It’s also going to be online very shortly. And the video of the event will also be online at some point, probably next week. Thank you very much.