ICE Fails to Show COVID-19 Testing for Illegal Immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Inspector General reported this week that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has failed to properly follow required procedures to be certain that illegal immigrants encountered at the southern border are properly tested for COVID-19 before being placed on flights to the interior of the country.

The IG identified numerous occasions where the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office of ICE was unable to provide proof that illegals were tested for COVID-19 infection “before transport on domestic commercial flights.”

ICE relies on domestic airlines to transport illegal aliens from border patrol custody to locations around the U.S. as well as ground transit and even charter flights. ERO has detained single adult migrants illegally entering the country at 127 different locations before they are either deported immediately or released into America without supervision.

The IG report provides that an illegal immigrant’s travels may include multiple transfers between various federal agencies after reaching the U.S. As a result, migrants in DHS custody often travel in close contact with the general public on domestic flights originating and terminating inside the country.

Although there are a number of detailed testing requirements for such persons, the IG determined that ERO has failed to ensure all illegals are properly tested before being placed on domestic flights.

The failure was attributed to unclear ERO policies and the failure of ERO to have proper controls in place to enforce testing policies. ERO was also found to have incomplete records of illegal immigrant transports for unaccompanied children. The agency had only deferred that responsibility to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The IG reported that ERO practices create an unacceptable risk of exposure to staff, other migrants, and the general American public. In order to correct the problem, the IG said it is “imperative” that ICE and ERO establish and enforce procedures to comply with vaccine testing requirements in order to minimize risk under current conditions or during any future pandemic.

ICE issued a response in which it said it agrees with the “intent” of the IG findings and said that a number of the proposed remedies have “already been addressed.” ICE added that it is committed to the safety and security of “noncitizens in its custody.”

The IG report came this week as a federal judge has recently blocked the Biden administration from ending enforcement of the Trump-era Title 42 public health order. That order has been in place since March 2020 and has been used to expel a majority of illegals apprehended at the border as a COVID-19 prevention measure.