ICE Does Not Know How Many Veterans It Has Deported, Finds Watchdog

An ICE agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), watches as Guatemalan police investigate the scene after detaining a suspected human trafficker.
John Moore / Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not know how many veterans it has deported, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

As The Hill reports, the watchdog found that ICE does not keep a record of how many veterans it deported between 2013 and 2018, which means it is failing its own policies.

The watchdog noted that ICE has its own set of policies used to handle cases of veterans who happen to not be American citizens, but it does not consistently apply them.

“ICE has developed policies for handling cases of non-citizen veterans who may be subject to removal from the United States, but does not consistently adhere to those policies, and does not consistently identify and track such veterans. Therefore, ICE does not have reasonable assurance that it is consistently implementing its policies for handling veterans’ cases.”

According to the Government Accountability Office, ICE needs to make a number of changes, starting from officers documenting when they encounter a non-citizen veteran. The agency, according to the watchdog, should also create an online database to keep track of of veterans being targeted for deportation.

ICE’s own policies, however, state that officers must first seek approval before proceeding with a deportation case against a non-citizen veteran. According to data, the agency placed around 250 non-citizen veterans in deportation proceedings between 2013 and 2018, and roughly 90 have been deported.

In a statement supplied to The Hill, ICE said that it is required by law to “mandatorily detain and process for removal individuals who have been convicted of aggravated felonies as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

The agency also defended itself against Government Accountability Office’s accusations, stating that the non-citizen veterans were “placed into removal proceedings” due to felonies related to terrorist threats, firearms, drugs, abuse, and other crimes.

Twenty-one percent of the deportations did not have management approval, which is required, the report states.

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The revelations prompted Democratic lawmakers Juan Vargas, and House Veteran’s Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano to write a formal letter to ICE’s acting director.

Controversy is nothing new for ICE, an organization many claim needs to be abolished.

An investigation by The Young Turks, based on internal agency memos and published on Monday, revealed that ICE officials had let detainees die in custody. In one of the memos, an official writes about a suicidal detainee being given nothing but anti-allergy medication.

Another memo details the removal of a tuberculosis-suffering detainee from respiratory isolation, and several cases mention failure by the agency to detox detainees on potent medications or with substance abuse issues.