WASHINGTON – Adding to a plethora of problems uncovered at the Immigration and Naturalization Service since Sept. 11, the Justice Department said Monday that thousands of foreign-born inmates who should be deported are instead being released back into U.S. communities.
"We found that the INS was not making a consistent or comprehensive effort to check local booking records on a daily basis for deportable criminal aliens at the local facilities," Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine complained in a report released Monday.
The report examined the INS’s Institutional Removal Program in Florida and California and found that many potentially deportable foreign inmates were returned to U.S. communities anyway, and then went on to commit more crimes, "including drug possession, spousal abuse and child molestation."
Problems in this area have increased since the range of aggravated felony crimes for which aliens are deportable was expanded in 1996, according to the report.
But this isn’t the only bureaucratic snafu that the INS is currently dealing with since the Sept. 11 attacks. The agency has been blamed for not effectively acting on information linking immigrants to terrorist organizations or enforcing the law regarding illegal aliens once they get here.
Fifteen out of the 19 hijackers involved in those attacks were here on legal travel visas. The agency also failed to act on decade-old information that the gunman who killed two people at Los Angeles airport in July was linked by Egyptian authorities to a terrorist organization. The agency also allowed four Pakistani nationals into the United States off a ship docked in Norfolk, Va., contrary to immigration service policy.
In one monumental blunder, the INS sent out student visa approval notices for two of the dead hijackers.
The INS jail program, which was created in 1998 to legally and administratively expedite the deportation of alien criminals, needs improvement, admits immigration officials.
"The INS agrees with the need for strengthened management oversight," the INS said in a response included in the report. It recognized that the program was short on manpower to track the many deportable aliens passing through the criminal justice system every day.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department found that in a sample of 151 cases, $2.3 million was spent in detention costs -- of which $1.1 million was attributed to problems such as failure to expedite the hearings on time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.