Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) led several of their colleagues in demanding answers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Tae Johnson on the dangers of President Biden’s continued implementation of catch and release policies in response to the border crisis. In particular, the concerns focus on how the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program is failing to accomplish its stated goals.
“Under the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, ICE releases apprehended illegal immigrants into the United States with some type of temporary monitoring in the hopes that they will show up for their immigration court hearing and then depart if they are ordered to do so,” the senators wrote. “In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that ATD is failing to keep track of illegal immigrants ICE is supposedly monitoring. By ICE’s own calculations, 33 percent of the illegal immigrants unenrolled from ATD in FY2020 were unenrolled because they absconded and could not be found. GAO calculates that, overall, 9 percent of all illegal immigrants enrolled in ATD in FY2020 ultimately could not be found.”
The senators raise concerns that these calculations fail to capture the true ineffectiveness of the ATD program. The GAO report also found that over 75 percent of all ATD participants were unenrolled before the conclusion of their immigration proceedings.
“We are concerned that this practice obscures the true nature of the absconder rate, and incorrectly implies greater compliance and participation by illegal immigrants in the ATD program than is in fact the case. As an example, while most ATD enrollees are only enrolled for a short period of time, in a leaked 2019 ICE report on ATD, ICE reported that it tracked a population of migrants from initial encounter at the border all the way through their final order of removal, and found that 90% of them absconded,” the senators continued.
The senators conclude by demanding answers to nearly a dozen questions from ICE, including updated data for those actively enrolled in the ATD program, additional information as to why ICE chooses to unenroll so many migrants and steps the agency is taking to apprehend migrants who have absconded.
“The Biden Administration agenda not only encourages more illegal immigration to our southern border, but also fails to enforce our laws once illegal immigrants arrive. Your prompt response to our questions will ensure our ability to consider best steps to secure our southern border and enforce the law,” the senators concluded.
Senators signing the letter with Grassley and Tillis included Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
Full text of the letter is available HERE.