A government watchdog reported on Thursday that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not know how many non-citizen veterans it has deported in the last five years.
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the agency did not maintain a complete record of how many veterans were deported between 2013 and 2018.
The GAO also discovered that ICE failed to follow its own policies with regard to veterans who may be subject to deportation.
“ICE has developed policies for handling cases of noncitizen 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,” the report states.
“Therefore, ICE does not have reasonable assurance that it is consistently implementing its policies for handling veterans’ cases,” it continued.
The watchdog recommended that ICE make changes needed to implement its policies consistently and suggested developing an online database of veterans undergoing deportation proceedings and take steps to ensure ICE officers identify and document when they encounter an immigrant who is a veteran.
ICE’s policies mandate that officers who encounter a veteran they believe should be deported, they must conduct further assessments that account for the veteran’s service history and must seek approval to proceed with a case, reports NBC News.
The Hill adds:
The GAO’s available data showed that ICE placed approximately 250 veterans in deportation proceedings over the five-year period; authors noted that the information was limited and therefore that number could be significantly higher.
The report found that of the roughly 90 veterans deported between 2013 and 2018, agents did not acquire management’s required approval in 21 percent of their cases.
According to ICE, applicable law requires the agency “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 claimed in a statement to CNN that in all of the veteran case files reviewed by the watchdog, “the individuals were placed into removal proceedings because of felony convictions related to drugs; sexual abuse, of which 18 involved minors; firearms, explosives, or explosive material; kidnapping; terrorist threats; and other crimes.”
“We cannot allow noncitizen veterans to fall through the cracks of our broken immigration system,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) wrote in a letter to the acting director of ICE on Thursday, asking how the agency will make changes based on the report’s findings.