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Chapter 2.  Situational Assessment [page 1 of 3]




The Detention and Deportation Program, now the office of Detention and Removal (DRO), was established in a 1955 reorganization of the INS to carry out a mission first articulated in the Alien and sedition Acts of 1798.  The Alien and Sedition Acts included the earliest deportation legislation, which empowered the President to order the departure from the United States of all aliens deemed dangerous.  Legislation since then has expanded the detention and removal operations and redefined the classes of aliens to be deported or excluded.  The basic mission, however, remains the same:  Remove all removable aliens.


The Immigration and Nationally Act (INA) of 1952 expanded the federal expulsion power to include a wider category of aliens.  The INA listed 19 general classes of deportable aliens

and provided for exclusion (at the time of application for admission) to the United States on health, criminal, moral, economic, subversive, and other grounds.  The illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 expanded the number of crimes that made people subject to removal.  It also eliminated DRO’s discretion to release certain aliens by requiring that virtually any non-citizen subject to removal on the basis of a criminal conviction, as well as certain categories of non-criminal aliens, to be detained without bond.  As a result of these acts and other legislation, DRO is required to detain and remove a much larger and more diverse population.  The current population requires unique facilities, procedures and management depending on risk, criminal category, nationality, health and other special needs.


Similarly, operations, policy and legislation that were developed in response to the September 11 attacks (such as the Border Security Act and the USA PATRIOT Act) further expanded DRO’s operational area of responsibility.  These Acts, in particular, have reprioritized national immigration enforcement efforts and this program’s responsibilities and operations.  By implementing this strategic plan and providing a guide to conduct operations, this program is making strides in altering it’s operations and resource requirements to support both current and future immigration related policy, events and activity.




Reorganizations and Demands for Service


A)         Reorganizations:  DRO was integrated into the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on March 31, 2003.  Notwithstanding the impact this transition will have on DRO, the program’s mission and core functions (custody management and removal) will remain the same.  The most significant changes will be seen in the organizational structure, chains of command, and hierarchy.  This plan is focused on the program’s core business functions and key processes and will, therefore, not be significantly impacted by the final reorganization decisions.


B) Demands for Service:  An effective enforcement program requires that a significant risk of apprehension be combined with a high likelihood that apprehension will result in removal.  With high enough risk of apprehension and sufficient likelihood of removal, the incidence of illegal activities will decline, improving law enforcement effectiveness.  The national strategy for law enforcement must address the priority of removals.



The ‘endgame’ of immigration law enforcement is the removal of individuals who have received final orders of removal.  This is the essence of DRO’s mission.  Improvements in the operational effectiveness of apprehensions will create an increased requirement for processing and removing offenders.  Therefore, to successfully complete the enforcement process, the removals program must be as vigorous as other enforcement programs.  DRO needs appropriate resources to ensure that removal does, in fact, result surely from apprehension.  Otherwise, the workload resulting from enhancements to and increased efficiencies within other DHS programs will be made in vain without an equally enhanced detention and removals program.


As part of the DHS immigration and law enforcement mission, the DRO program has the primary responsibility of providing adequate and appropriate custody management (including bed space), supporting removals, facilitating the processing of illegal aliens through the immigration court, and enforcing their departure from the United States.  Key elements in exercising those responsibilities include: identifying and removing all high-risk illegal alien absconders; ensuring that those aliens who have already been identified as criminals are expeditiously removed; and developing and maintaining a robust removals program with the capacity to remove all final order cases issued annually, thus precluding growth in the illegal alien absconder populations.  Simply stated, DRO’s ultimate goal is to develop the capacity to remove all removable aliens.


Integral to making America more secure, DHS detention and removal operations provide the final step in the immigration enforcement process.  To accomplish this mission, DRO will be vigorous in its efforts to provide services commensurate to the demand from and efforts expended by other enforcement programs and agencies.  DRO will increase its overall number of removals annually in order to thwart and deter continued growth in the illegal alien population.  Moving toward a 100% rate of removal for all removable aliens is critical to allow the ICE to provide the level of immigration enforcement necessary to keep America secure.  Without this final step in the process, apprehensions made by other DHS programs cannot truly contribute to national security.



Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT)


Endgame was developed with both the positive and negative aspects of the program in mind.  DRO will exploit its strengths and minimize its weaknesses in order to capitalize on available opportunities and overcome the challenges it faces in pursuit of its mission.




DRO’s success will be attributed to the strength of its leadership, current and planned initiatives, the experience and dedication of its workforce and an unquestionable commitment from the entire program to execute this plan and the critical planning process within which is a part.  The current workforce has the experience, dedication and corporate knowledge needed to build the foundation from which this plan will be launched and from which the program capacity will be both built and enhanced.  DRO’s workforce is supported by time-proven processes to remove illegal aliens from the country and the maintenance of detention facilities against standards more stringent than the national norm.


1. Leadership:  DRO leadership believes that “failing to plan is planning to fail” and therefore supports this strategic plan and a planning process that fully integrates operations and performance with resource needs.  DRO leadership is committed to executing this plan and its strategies to accomplish the mission and attain the vision by empowering the DRO workforce to think globally, work smarter and take responsibility for executing a critical function of the entire immigration enforcement process.


2. Workforce:  The DRO core business functions (custody management and removal) demand that the DRO officer corps maintain broad and expert knowledge of all applicable immigration laws, policy and procedures; they do so.  The DRO officer corps has the education and experience to manage ICE’s unique population while simultaneously carrying out proper enforcement action.  Because of their diverse workload and broad immigration knowledge, DRO officers are often called on to serve on review panels that recommend parole, release or other relief for aliens in accordance with the law.  They are also authorized and mandated to discuss and act on immigration issues with aliens being processed for administrative immigration violations.


3. Unique Population and Detention Standards:  The detained alien population is unique and extremely diverse.  Detained aliens are in administrative custody (versus punitive or correctional) and are therefore afforded rights and privileges not gained by prisoners incarcerated in other federal institutions.  For this reason, DRO conducts routine inspections of it’s facilities and operations to ensure that they are in compliance  with approved standards, that aliens are treated humanely, and that they are safe and secure.  DRO manages its own Detention Management Control Plan (DMCP) to ensure its facilities comply with American Correctional Association detention standards and their own more stringent and comprehensive ICE Detention Standards.  Through execution of thorough and routine inspections outlined in the DMCP, DRO ensures its facilities are operated in a professional manner and are compliant with appropriate codes, standards, and regulations.


a) Health Care:  DRI is expanding its health care delivery system to fit current and future needs in the most cost-effective way.  This includes increasing the services currently provided by the Public Health Service (PHS).  It also includes an overall upgrade of the Immigration Health Information System (IHIS), involving the creation of an electronic surveillance system for communicable diseases that will help control costs and significantly increase administrative efficiency.  This initiative will allow PHS to maintain appropriate staff levels needed to provide requisite detainee health care.  It will especially enhance the movement of detainees to the most optimal site based on their health conditions and will clear them for removal more quickly.


b.  Chaplaincy:  DRO gas requested positions be created to place chaplains in each of its Service Processing Centers (SPCs) to ensure that detainees of different faiths are provided reasonable and equitable opportunities to pursue their respective religious practices.  This initiative will satisfy detention standards that allow for the practice of various religions, unique food provisions, and spiritual needs during terminal illness and death.  The chaplain will also be responsible for advising the Officer in Charge in matters of religious holiday observance, religious diets, religious personal property, dress and contraband.


4. September 11 Awareness:  The unprecedented terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 heightened awareness among the public and governments worldwide of the critical importance of enforcing immigration laws and sharing information and intelligence.  Since then, the U. S. has reviewed its own business practices regarding immigration and homeland defense and, in doing so, has identified critical gaps that are now being addressed and resolved.  This worldwide focus on immigration provides the opportunity to develop and enhance relationships and cooperation with foreign governments and, most importantly, among U. S. law enforcement, border control and defense agencies.  Finally it has afforded the DRO and the DHS an opportunity to educate the public on the critical mission and role they play in the immigration enforcement process. 




1. Lack of Empirical Models:  The DRO mission cannot be accomplished without appropriate human resources, yet the program does not have reliable models to determine what the true workload-to-personnel ratio should be.  Although a new financial management system, the Federal Financial Management System (FFMS), is being fielded that will enhance the management of current fiscal resources, DRO does not have the capability to conduct detailed financial analysis and resource identification utilizing the current system.  Also, lacking is a documented business model and accurate cost data to support future budgetary planning, resource allocation, cost optimization, and GPRA requirements.


2. Human Resource Shortfall:  The program experienced relatively gradual growth in key areas from 1998 to 2001 (end of year 2002 numbers were not available while drafting this plan).  The DRO staff grew by only three percent, which was slightly slower than the four percent growth in the docket or caseload.  While the program is making progress, increasing removals by 11 percent, staff growth is only barely keeping pace with the growing docket.  Staff growth must exceed docket growth if the program is going to begin making progress on diminishing and eliminating the existing backlog.  Detention and Removal resources have not kept pace with the increased number of apprehensions generated by explosive growth in Border Patrol and Inspections since 1996.  Since that time, these apprehensions resources have increased by 64 percent while DRO forces have increased by only 37 percent.  While DRO does not have empirical models to show the optimal ratio of DRO forces to apprehension assets, it is clear that this asymmetrical growth has put severe strains on the program.  Its ability to follow up on apprehensions, to effectively manage the processing of cases through the immigration courts, and to remove those ordered removed has been hindered.