Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

GAO Report Released: Removal Decisions

In a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “Immigration Enforcement: ICE Could Improve Controls to Help Guide Alien Removal Decision Making,” the GAO found that the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun to update and enhance training curricula to better support officer decision-making but that the agency has not taken steps to ensure that written guidance to promote the appropriate exercise of discretion during apprehension and removal is comprehensive and up to date and has not established time frames for updating guidance. For example, the GAO noted, field operational manuals have not been updated to provide information about the appropriate exercise of discretion in light of a recent expansion of ICE worksite enforcement and fugitive operations, in which officers are more likely to encounter persons with humanitarian issues or who are not targets of investigations. Also, ICE does not have a mechanism to ensure the timely dissemination of information on legal developments that would enable officers to make decisions in line with the most recent interpretations of immigration law. As a result, the GAO said, ICE officers are “at risk of taking actions that do not support operational objectives and making removal decisions that do not reflect the most recent legal developments.”

The GAO recommended that ICE update its guidance to include factors officers should consider when making apprehension and removal decisions and establish time frames for this task; ensure that officers are provided timely information on legal developments affecting their decisions; and evaluate the costs and alternatives for developing a mechanism to analyze officer decision-making systematically. The Department of Homeland Security agreed and identified actions ICE plans to take to implement the GAO’s recommendations. The report, GAO-08-67, is available at

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About the Author

Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.