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3. Standardization:  The current field structure, coupled with a lack of unified national operations plans, has resulted in diversified and inconsistent interpretation of policy and guidance within and between regions and districts.  Additionally, the current performance measurement system creates an atmosphere of territoriality rather than a unified, cooperative, effective, and efficient operation.  DRO acknowledges that nationwide operations cannot be conducted consistently without unified operations plans and clear guidance to the field.  Developing a national fugitive operations policy, a national custody management plan and a national transportation system are the program’s greatest challenges and will prove to be among its greatest recent accomplishments when complete.  Development and deployment of these national plans, as envisioned, will have significant positive impact on DRO operations across the board.  These national plans will not solve all program deficiencies but will significantly reduce and minimize the gaps.  Standard staffing guidelines and staffing levels are also absent from the DRO personnel management system.  Staff make-ups vary widely among and between like offices throughout the country.  Arguably, offices should reflect the particular needs of their locale, but the discrepancy in staffing levels and ratios, officer grade, and employee roles and responsibilities creates anomalies in mission accomplishment and unfair advantages and disadvantages to those competing for jobs.


4. National Fleet System:  Lacking a National Transportation Strategy and efficient coordination, DRO spends millions of dollars annually for air and ground transportation in order to manage the detention population and effect timely removals.  Likewise, as staffing levels in other programs have increased, the DRO program has experience an increased workload without the necessary increase in vehicles.  Consequently, the lack of adequate types and numbers of vehicles and a central movement control center handicaps DRO in carrying out its mission as effectively and efficiently as it could.


5. Alternatives to Detention:  The DRO detained population has grown in both numbers and diversity in recent years, yet detention methods needed to satisfy unique demands have not kept pace.  For example, family groups are often held in hotels because there are not adequate facilities available to house both adults and juveniles together.


6. DHS Enforcement Initiatives:  The DHS is currently implementing and making plans to implement several enforcement initiatives and programs that, when fully operational, will generate increased demands do not come with increased DRO resources.  DRO cannot fully support these programs, and they will not be as effective as intended, without a commensurate increase in personnel and infrastructure.  These programs are the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) and the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT).


7. Workforce Development:  The DHS operates and maintains an intensive course of instruction for new officers and recruits.  The academies provide 11-, 16-, and 21-week courses designed to provide officers with the core competencies needed to begin their work at their duty location.  The officers do, however, require a period of on-the-job training before they are fully effective in their assigned duties.  Unfortunately, DRO does not have an advanced or professional development program of equal caliber.  Officers do not have a “career advancement” template to follow and, due to the operational tempo and shortfall in human resources, officers are often not relieved from duty to attend professional development training.  This, along with several other factors, has had a detrimental affect on retention rates within the DRO officer corps.  The low retention rate is further exacerbated, as the hiring and training process is extremely slow and cumbersome; officers are not trained and put in place before existing staff is burnt out and eventually leaves the program.


8.    Institutional Removal Program (IRP):  The IRP, as currently executed, is inefficient

       and less effective than it should be because the responsibility for operational

execution lies with the investigations program (identifying and processing incarcerated aliens) and the responsibility for results lies with the Detention and Removal program (removing criminal aliens), the Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the Office of the Inspector General have clearly cited a workforce shortfall to handle the significant workload.  As the War on Terror continues to be waged, the Special Agents who have been supporting the IRP are being pulled from the program to work other high profile cases related to ‘homeland security.”  These positions and IRP work left unaccomplished by these special agents are not being back filled, increasing the risk of releasing criminal aliens into the community.


9.   Inadequate Information Technology to Support DRO Operations: The Deportable Alien

      Control System (DACS) no longer responds to the demands placed on it in today’s       operational environment.  Outdated hardware and software, coupled with questionable data quality, render the system difficult and inefficient to use.  The integrity of the system has been maintained by years of software patchwork, additions and enhancements. 


10.     Aging and Inadequate Infrastructure for Detention Operations:  Historically, funding

For repair, construction, and alternation has not been adequate to support our Service Processing Centers (SPCs).  Funding for construction projects has routinely been reduced and/or eliminated over the last several years.  This has made it extremely difficult to support our detention operation and to keep up with the technological / design / procedural advancements the “prison” industry affords.  While most of our facilities have portions of new construction, our facilities generally need significant physical improvements.  This is not to say that any of our facilities are in “poor condition.”  Our staff goes to great lengths to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the staff, detainees, and general public.  Facilities like Florence, El Centro, El Paso, and Port Isabel, when originally constructed years ago, were designed to hold relatively small non-criminal populations for short periods of time.  Over the last 5 years, our population has increased by 136%, and the classification of our population has gone from primarily non-criminal to a population of over 65% criminal, some requiring a maximum-security setting.  As an agency, we have had a relatively short period of time and little funding to keep up with the growth and the special needs of this disparate population.


11.     September 11 Unfunded Mandates:  Since September 11, 2001, policy and activity has subjected DRO to q w34i3w or unfunded mandates, taking resources away from the accomplishment of other critical operations.  Throughout the past year, the Administration, the Department of Justice and Congress have initiated several programs in response to gaps revealed by September 11 findings.  These have forced the program into a reactive role, thereby redirecting our proactive initiatives and planning.  Programs such as the Alien Absconder Initiative and the Custody Review Unit, while extremely beneficial in securing America’s borders, have not been resourced to the extent that optimum benefit can be realized. 



12.     Lack of Immigration Enforcement Mission Are Plan:  As the title of this plan implies DRO provides the final step in the immigration enforcement process.  The Department does not yet have, in place, a tool, method or process to ensure that strategies, budgets and operations planned for and executed by other enforcement programs consider the impact to DRO and the ensuing operational implications and resource requirements.


13.     Non-detained docket:  The Detention and Removal program does not have a program to effectively manage its non-detained docket.  The appearance rate of individuals released from ICE custody is estimated to be 15 percent and the program does not have the resources to identify, locate, apprehend and process the remaining 85%.




DRO is currently working on several short-and long-term initiatives that are proving to be excellent opportunities to continue it’s progress in implementing this plan and achieving its vision and mission.  The proper use of information technology is critical to program success and DRO is working with the Office of Information Resource Management (OIRM) to replace the Deportable Alien Control System with the Removal Module (EREM) of the Enforcement Case Tracking System (ENFORCE).  The EREM will draw from many more databases and sources than DACS.  It is expected that EREM will facilitate the automation and subsequent improvement of many DRO efforts and procedures.  Other initiatives include the implementation of the National Fugitive Operations Plan, the reorganization of District DRO operations who control Service Processing Centers (SPCs), unilateral management of the Institutional Removal Program (IRP), revision of the Field Officer’s Manual, an initiative to reengineer the bond management program, development of a central ticketing program to coordinate all escort missions, and implementation of various electronic monitoring programs.  All of these initiatives are layers deep and include the creation of training and professional development programs, increased staffing levels and greater stakeholder cooperation and involvement. 


In addition to these initiatives, other strategies within this plan, current events, political will, and public interest provide the program with an array of opportunities from which it cannot turn away.  DRO will exploit every opportunity presented in order to build the capacity to remove all removable aliens. 


1. Human Resource Shortfall:  The workload per case officer is daunting and the pool of removable aliens continues to grow as other immigration enforcement divisions became more effective, apprehending greater numbers of individuals, and as aliens continue to find ways  to enter the country illegally.  The detention and removal mission is manpower intensive and very few functions can be automated.  Therefore, the success of the missions relies heavily on available human resources and their capabilities.  DRO will work diligently to close the gap between its workforce is productive, efficient and effective, DRO will implement strategies to training programs, create professional development programs, and build the infrastructure (information technology, transportation, facilities) essential to facilitate the detention and remove



2. Institutional Removal Program (IRP):  The IRP, as currently executed, is inefficient and less effective than it should be because the responsibility for operational execution lies with the Investigations program (identifying and processing incarcerated aliens) and the responsibility for results lies with the Detention and Removal program (remove criminal aliens).  To reduce the inefficiencies in the program, in September 2000 the Office of Field Operations mandated the transition of the IRP from Investigations to Detention and Removal.  Consolidation of IRP will allow senior management to focus on and resolve the program deficiencies identified in the 1997 and 1998 GAO reports.  These efficiencies will permit more aliens to be processed while incarcerated, thereby reducing the potential demand for detention space.  Overall, improved effectiveness of the IRP will increase the public safety, reduce the potential for future crimes, and enhance the welfare of our society.  DRO is working with the Investigations Program to either identify resources to be transferred with the IRP or to acquire additional resources to merge and execute the program.


3. DEO/IEA Reclassification:  Creation of the Immigration Enforcement Agent (IEA), with a     journeyman-level at GS-9, will make this entry-level position a true foundation for an officer’s career development.  This new career position will strengthen the overall professionalism of the DRO workforce and will afford those who are interested with the opportunity to apply for any of the senior officer positions, thereby continuing their career growth within the Division and Department.  Establishment of this position will create a corps of nearly 2,300 IEAs with arrest authority and authority to issue detainers.  This increased workforce will create a pool of officers that can effectively execute the IRP.  If this corps of officers works the IRP 25% of their time (as is expected to meet the requirements of the new classification and grade), we will have, in effect, almost 600 full time equivalent positions (FTE) dedicated to the IRP, which is nearly double the current IEA FTE.  By doubling the effective IRP workforce, we can expect a significant increase in criminal removals as more incarcerated removable aliens are processed and deported.  This increased effectiveness will also reduce the number of persons placed in ICE detention, thus reducing avoidable detention costs.


4. National Fugitive Operations Program (NFOP)/Absconder Apprehension Initiative (AAI):  In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed legislation providing funding and positions for the role of law enforcement agencies in the war against terrorism.  As part of that legislation, DRO was authorized an enhancement of 40 positions solely for the purpose of apprehending fugitive aliens.  Seven districts were assigned these positions to create a Fugitive Operations Section for the purpose of implementing the NFOP.  The Absconder Apprehension Initiative announced in the Deputy Attorney General’s directive of January 25, 2002, indicated that there is a backlog of cases with unexecuted orders of removal.  The NFOP will target this backlog by facilitating the apprehension and subsequent removal of those fugitives.  The goal over the next ten years will be to eliminate this backlog and to ensure that our efforts in terms of apprehension and removal of fugitive cases equals the number of new cases falling into this category.  While woefully in adequate to achieve the goal, the creation of 40 positions dedicated to the NFOP us a promising start.