How much is poor communication between the agencies that handle immigration and border security a factor in costly mistakes that affect immigrants in the system? A lengthy report based on an investigation by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General doesn’t directly answer that question, but it does make a good case that improvements are needed.
More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks prompted a massive reorganization of the agencies that oversee the immigration system, inter-agency communication remains far from optimal at various steps along the way, from the agencies that monitor immigrants’ arrival to those that enforce their exit.
The report is especially relevant given some recent erroneous deportations that have received attention, most recently that of a young Honduran-born man from Los Angeles who had been pursuing a “reasonable fear” asylum claim in hopes of avoiding deportation, fearing his gang affiliation might get him killed if he was sent back. Twenty-year-old Nelson Avila-Lopez’s deportation was suspended last fall, but soon afterward, he was sent to Honduras by mistake.
Upon his return, he was placed in a prison that burned down in February, killing him and more than 350 others. Afterward, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials attributed the deadly mistake to “probably the product of a breakdown in communications between the agency and the local immigration court.”
According to the Homeland Security OIG report, the completion and tracking of asylum cases and how the results are communicated to other agencies is just one of many things that needs improvement within the immigration system.