Politics & Policy

DHS Is Not Tracking Its Own Use of ‘Prosecutorial Discretion’ to Release Illegal Immigrants

Federal officials have not kept track of the number of times they have used “prosecutorial discretion” to justify the release of an illegal immigrant, and they have inadequate information on who is eligible for such treatment, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general reports.

“Given its significant investment, as well as its reliance on prosecutorial discretion to focus its resources, DHS should fully assess its policies and decisions about immigration enforcement to ensure it is using Government funds as efficiently as possible,” according to a May 4 audit from the DHS inspector general. The audit found that DHS has spent $21 billion in three immigration enforcement agencies in the last two fiscal years.

“DHS does not collect and analyze data on the use of prosecutorial discretion to fully assess its current immigration enforcement activities and to develop future policy,” the audit also says.

As a result, DHS can provide data on how many people are detained or deported in a given year, but can’t tell how many more illegal immigrants were released pursuant to President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported 12,757 instances of an official determining that an individual in the country illegally qualified for prosecutorial discretion, but that likely understates the case.

#related#“ICE officials noted that field office personnel do not always record their use of prosecutorial discretion because they make these decisions daily and it would be too time consuming to record every occurrence,” the report says.

The inspector general also warned that criminals may wrongly be allowed to remain in the United States.

“When applying prosecutorial discretion, ICE field office personnel said they might not always have access to an individual’s criminal history in his or her country of origin,” the audit says. “As a result, aliens convicted of or wanted for a felony committed in their home country, but not convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor in the United States may not be identified as a DHS enforcement priority.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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