Skip to comments.How many absconders in U.S.?
Posted on 03/18/2002 7:50:26 AM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection
In a written statement to Human Events, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has conceded it cannot vouch for the accuracy of its claim that there are 314,000 immigration "absconders" in the United States.
Absconders is the agency's term for illegal aliens who have been ordered deported by immigration judges but who remain in the country anyway.
Statistics published by the Justice Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review, or EOIR, which is independent of the INS, suggest that the number is far higher than the INS has claimed. Indeed, they indicate it is likely there were about 425,000 new absconders just in the five-year period from fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2000. And that number would exclude all absconders in the years before 1996, and all absconders since Oct. 1, 2000.
House Immigration Subcommittee Chairman George Gekas, R-Pa., told Human Events he now believes the number of absconders could run as high as one million.
In an October interview with Human Events, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said that the INS had informed him that there were more than 250,000 absconders loose in the country. Tancredo's assertion was confirmed by INS Communications Director Russ Bergeron, who told Human Events that there were "250,000 to 300,000 aliens in the United States with outstanding warrants of deportation."
After that, INS Commissioner James Ziglar testified under oath in Congress to a specific number: 314,000 absconders. Ziglar, in fact, was emphatic that this was the correct number of absconders based on what he called a just-completed INS analysis.
"At the end of the judicial process, there was a deportation order for them to be removed from the country," Ziglar said of absconders in Dec. 5 testimony in the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources. "And then, as you described it, they jumped bail, they absconded and disappeared into the woodwork of the country. The number that has been thrown around in the press is 250,000 of those people. Mr. Chairman, the number is actually about 314,000, based upon our analysis yesterday."
But now, after queries from Human Events as to just how this analysis was conducted and how it could be reconciled with the much higher numbers suggested by the EOIR, the INS is conceding that 314,000 may not be an accurate count of absconders after all. In a written statement e-mailed to Human Events, INS public affairs officer Karen Kraushaar said: "We have discussed the questions you raise internally. At this time, INS officials are reviewing this matter in an effort to obtain an accurate count of the actual number of unexecuted final orders. To this end, we are in discussions with members of Congress and in consultation with EOIR to accurately determine the current number of unexecuted final orders. We will be responding to the Congress once INS and EOIR have achieved agreement on accurate totals."
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., the subcommittee chairman to whom Ziglar directed his claim that there were 314,000 absconders, was on his way back to Indiana as Human Events went to press and not available for comment.
But other members of Congress and the government have repeated Ziglar's claim that there are 314,000 absconders in the months since Ziglar testified in Congress.
Attorney General John Ashcroft told a press conference on Feb. 6, 2002: "We have over 314,000 aliens who have been adjudicated as susceptible to deportation. They have completed and exhausted their legal rights, and they have been ordered deported, and yet they have just merged into the American landscape. They have escaped from justice."
On March 14, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., used the number prominently three times. First he used it on separate morning shows on CNN and CBS and then again at a midday press conference in the Capitol.
Sensenbrenner did not return calls from Human Events.
Ricardo Inzunza, who served as deputy commissioner of the INS during the first Bush administration, told Human Events that he and current INS officials he knows believe the true number of absconders could actually be in the millions if you take into account several decades of lax INS enforcement of deportation orders.
Examining figures from the INS, the EOIR (which oversees federal immigration courts), and the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General points to a number of absconders significantly higher than 314,000. In fiscal years 1996 through 2000, according to an EOIR report, immigration judges ordered 713,697 illegal aliens deported. The INS "2000 Statistical Yearbook" says it did not detain two-thirds of these, or 478,177, after they had received their deportation orders. (They either were allowed to leave the courtroom on their own, or had failed to show up in the first place and were ordered deported in absentia.) The Justice Department's fiscal year 2000 Performance Report says, "OIG reviews have found that the INS was successful in deporting only about 11 percent of non-detained aliens after final orders had been issued."
That would mean that 89 percent of the 478,177 undetained illegal aliens ordered deported over these five years were not actually deported and became absconders or some 425,578 illegals.
That would also mean that Ziglar's "analysis" of 314,000 was already off by more than a third even if there wasn't a single absconder in the years before 1996, or another one after 2000.
According to EOIR spokesman Greg Gagne, in the years 1989 through 1995, approximately 498,200 illegal aliens were ordered deported by judges.
In 1994 alone, according to an OIG report published in 1996, immigration judges ordered 94,600 illegal aliens to leave the country. Of these, 55 percent, or 52,030, were not detained after the judge ordered them to go. Because, again, according to the Justice Department, only 11 percent of these were probably actually removed, that would mean there were another 46,307 absconders just that year.
That would bring the likely total up to 471,885 absconders for the six years of 1994, and 1996 through 2000.
If the same patterns were to hold true for the other years between 1989 and 1995, the total absconders from 1989 to 2000 would be 669,447.
After a person is ordered deported, the INS can remove him without further adjudication if and when they ever find him. But the INS does not have biometric records for all absconders, and INS Communications Director Bergeron has said it does not even try to account for multiple absconders people who are ordered deported, leave, come back into the United States, are ordered deported again, and then don't leave.
Because of the protracted, multi-year judicial process required to actually win a deportation order against an illegal alien, a multiple absconder would have to be a person who had spent a good chunk of his life in and out of immigration courts.
"The president should fire Mr. Ziglar," Tancredo, R-Colo., chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, told Human Events after reading Kraushaar's statement. "A judge called us the other day and said it [the number of absconders] was at least double what the INS said it was. There's absolutely nothing left that can surprise me."
Ziglar's office did not return a call from Human Events asking for comment on Krauschaar's statement and whether he intended to correct his congressional testimony.
Gekas said after reading the INS statement: "I think it could be a million. ... We will look at that as part of our hearings on restructuring the INS."
According to a 1999 OIG report, the INS often has no idea what happens to illegal aliens ordered deported once they walk out of the courtroom onto U.S. streets. "INS does not know which illegal aliens granted voluntary departure by immigration judges have left the United States because the process for verifying departures is flawed," says the report. "Immigration judges and INS trial attorneys are not required to provide information or instructions to aliens about how to verify their departure, nor did we witness them do so in our courtroom observations. In most cases, INS has no further contact with the alien after the immigration judge issues the voluntary departure order."
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