Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released close to 13,000 undocumented immigrants as a result of prosecutorial discretion, a recently issued report from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has found.
This report, entitled DHS Missing Data Needed to Strengthen its Immigration Enforcement Efforts, has pointed out that the DHS has failed to compile and evaluate data on its policies related to prosecutorial discretion – despite having promised to carry this out in the past.
What is Prosecutorial Discretion?
According to this report, prosecutorial discretion is the process of “deciding to what extent [the DHS] will enforce immigration laws, including whether to place aliens in or take them out of the removal process.”
Typically, this policy comes into play when assessing immigration enforcement priorities, particularly when it comes to immigrants who do not pose an immediate threat to the U.S.
A Closer Look at the Report’s Findings
In revealing the lack of data on the use of prosecutorial discretion, this report specifically pointed out that the DHS needs to be moving towards greater transparency – especially regarding its data related to deportations and removals. The goal should be to promote public confidence in DHS’ immigration enforcement activities while establishing that the continued investment of taxpayer funds is important and necessary to ongoing operations.
Specifically, the report’s conclusion stated:
Over the past 2 fiscal years, ICE, CBP, and USCIS collectively received, on average, about $21 billion annually. Given its significant investment, as well as its reliance on prosecutorial discretion to focus on its resources, DHS should fully assess its policies and decisions about immigration enforcement to ensure it is using Government funds as efficiently as possible.
The Recommendations & Next Steps…
According to the report, the OIG is recommending that the DHS Office of Policy “develop and implement a plan to collect, analyze and report data on the use of prosecutorial discretion to assess immigration enforcement activities and improve policy.”
The DHS reportedly has agreed with the OIG’s recommendations, indicating that it will develop a “multi-pronged approach to assessing and accounting for DHS immigration enforcement efforts.”
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