A recent Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report found that sanctuary jurisdictions not only put considerable strains on federal immigration enforcement resources and have also resulted in over 17,000 illegal aliens who were still at large as of last year.
The report, which the department's inspector general released earlier this month, evaluated the difficulties that ICE's Criminal Alien Program, or CAP, faces as a result of having to deal with "uncooperative jurisdictions" that try to shield illegal immigrants from enforcement.
"ICE's inability to detain aliens identified through CAP who are located in uncooperative jurisdictions, results in increased risk those aliens will commit more crimes," the report found. "Furthermore, having to arrest 'at-large' aliens may put officer, detainee, and public safety at risk and strains ICE's staffing resources."
According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's website, CAP provides the enforcement agency "direction and support in the biometric and biographic identification, arrest, and removal of priority aliens who are incarcerated within federal, state, and local prisons and jails, as well as at-large criminal aliens that have circumvented identification."
When ICE finds out that an illegal alien is in law enforcement custody on criminal charges, it will issue a detainer request asking that local law enforcement agency notify ICE of the individual's expected release and to hold onto said individual until federal immigration agents can take him or her in for removal proceedings.
However, many sanctuary jurisdictions do not honor such requests to varying degrees and instead release removable aliens without notifying ICE, which forces the agency to conduct at-large arrest operations as a result.
"In such cases, ICE officers must investigate to determine each alien's location and then make arrests in communities rather than in more secure and safe environments such as in jails or prisons," the audit report noted. "Moving arrests from secure, controlled locations (jails) to unknown environments (homes, workplaces, or the public) places heavy demand on ICE personnel and increases safety risks for officers, arrestees, and local communities. Arresting violent offenders at large requires even more resources to ensure officer safety."
In addition, the report also showed that the number of ignored immigration detainers has consistently gone up during the Trump administration. In fiscal year 2017, the report said, law enforcement agencies ignored 7,565 ICE detainers. That number spiked to 15,451 in FY 2018 and increased still to 16,396 during FY 2019.
The report concluded that "ICE does not have sufficient resources" to fully address the enforcement challenges posed by sanctuary jurisdictions refusing its detainer requests, which means that thousands of removable aliens have slipped through the cracks as a result.
"Of the 58,900 declined detainers between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2019, ICE arrested about 70 percent of those aliens," the report said "As of September 30, 2019, the remaining 17,700 remained at-large."
ICE's acting chief Matthew Albence hailed the audit's findings, saying that they back up the administration's point about the dangers of sanctuary policies.
"This report further confirms what we have said for years: our communities are safer when law enforcement works together to take criminal aliens off the streets," Albence said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. He added that at-large arrest "efforts require significantly more time and resources, and worst of all, while we're still out looking for these criminals, many of these criminals commit further crimes, further victimizing the very communities these uncooperative jurisdictions are purporting to protect."
The report also suggested that the number of illegal aliens in the United States could be much higher than the government has previously estimated. While noting a 2015 DHS estimation of 12 million, the report points to a 2018 academic study that placed the estimation at 22.1 million.