Homeland admitted in emails it fails to track illegal immigrants released into US interior

The Biden Administration’s broader immigration strategy has come under scrutiny amid record border crossings and the impeachment of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week. Newly discovered emails may intensify that scrutiny.

Published: February 14, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: February 15, 2024 12:03am

Newly uncovered emails between Department of Homeland Security officials and journalists show the agency tasked with protecting U.S. border and domestic security admitted it is not tracking illegal immigrants after they were released from federal custody into the interior of the country.

In the emails obtained by the watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust in a Freedom of Information Act request, one DHS official told a Washington Post reporter off the record he could not say how many immigrants are settling in Northern states via border state busing programs because the agency does not track those released from their custody.

“Are more people deciding to settle in DC/New York or, more recently, Chicago as a result of the program where they might have previously been inclined to remain in Texas or Arizona?” the reporter asked in a September 2022 email reviewed by Just the News.

“Off the record, that’s hard for us to say because they’re getting on those buses after they’re already out of our custody,” the official answered.

“That said, anecdotally including what I hear from other reporters, it does appear that word is spreading and they are looking for those buses for the free transportation. I’ve also heard many people are getting off along the way, so they’re using the buses for as long as it is convenient, but again, because they are out of our custody by then, it is hard for us to be able to answer that,” the official added.

You can read the emails below:

Michael Chamberlain, the director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said the emails are fresh proof that Homeland officials know the consequences of their policies on border security.

“DHS attempts to claim they are not responsible for the crisis at the border and lack any means to solve the fast-developing disaster,” he said. “At the same time, they admit to friendly members of the media off the record that they fail to perform even the most basic of functions.

”The Biden Administration came into office promising a return to normalcy, unprecedented transparency, and respect for the rule of law. These documents provide further evidence that, when it comes to our borders, they are 0-for-3,” he added.

DHS did not respond to inquiries from Just the News about the facts expressed by the official nor about the agency’s standard practice for tracking immigrants after they are released into the country.

Brandon Judd, a border patrol agent and the president of the National Border Patrol Council union that represents border agents, told Just the News on Wednesday that he has been warning for years that the Biden administration stops tracking illegal aliens once they are released from custody and that it is one of the gravest security concerns the president's policies have created.

"Secretary Mayorkas, early on in this administration, said that the act of being in the country illegally alone is not enough for an enforcement action," Judd said in an interview with the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "So what I have advised members of Congress on this impeachment and we're going into a trial now what they need to do is they need to focus on that aspect." Judd urged members of Congress to make the policy a major focus on Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas' trial in the Senate since the House impeached him Tuesday.

"Where he is breaking the law is when he allows these people to evade apprehension after they violate their order to appear or when they're ordered in and ordered deported in absentia, once that happens, he has an obligation under the law to find these individuals and ensure that they leave the country. And he's not doing that," Judd continued.

Concerns over DHS’s ability to track migrants released into the United States were previously addressed in a September 2023 report by the Office of the Inspector General of DHS, the internal watchdog at that agency.

The report concluded “DHS has limited ability to track migrants’ post-release addresses accurately and effectively” because it “cannot always obtain and does not always record migrant addresses, and ICE does not always validate migrant addresses prior to migrant release into the United States.”

The report further explained why recording valid addresses is important to immigration enforcement.

“On average, DHS releases more than 60,000 migrants into the United States each month. ICE must be able to locate migrants to enforce immigration laws, including to arrest or remove individuals who are considered potential threats to national security,” the inspector general's report reads.

“The notable percentage of missing, invalid, or duplicate addresses on file means DHS may not be able to locate migrants following their release into the United States,” it added.

The Inspector General also recommended that the agency develop a policy for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to validate migrant addresses, but DHS rejected the recommendation, arguing that it “would be impractical or resource intensive without adding commensurate value.”

“The burden is on the noncitizen to provide a valid address,” DHS told the inspector general.

The revelation of these emails from DHS officials come days after the House of Representatives impeached DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday by a 214-213 vote after the first attempt by House Republicans failed last week.

“For nearly a year, the House Homeland Security Committee has taken a careful and methodical approach to this investigation and the results are clear: from his first day in office, Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and consistently refused to comply with federal immigration laws, fueling the worst border catastrophe in American history," House Speaker Mike Johnson, said in a statement.

The two articles of impeachment brought against Mayorkas charged that his handling of the border crisis represented a “breach of trust” and a "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law,” stemming from the Biden Administration’s release of approximately 2.3 million illegal immigrants encountered at the border since 2021.

The inquiries from media outlets into DHS’s policies in 2022 came after Republican governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, began transporting immigrants by bus and plane to Democrat-controlled states.

Gov. Abbott announced in April 2022 that Texas would take “unprecedented actions” to address the immigration surge at the border, including the use of buses to move immigrants released by DHS to Washington, D.C. and New York, among other cities, most of whom who declared themselves "sanctuary cities".

The revelation that DHS may not know exactly where the immigrants released into the county are located emerges amid heightened concerns about the increasing encounters at the Southern border and the security risks associated with them.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly warned about the threats posed to the country by the increased encounters at the southern border, especially the “getaways,” those illegal immigrants that evade border patrol entirely. In a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee in November, Wray told the representatives suspected terrorists among the “gotaways" are a “great concern” to the FBI.

“[Certainly] the group of people that you're talking about are source of great concern for us. That's why we're aggressively using all 56 of our joint terrorism task forces," Wray told the committee. “[Any] time you have a group of people in the United States that we don't know nearly enough about, that is a source of concern for us from a perspective in our lane of protecting Americans,” he added later.

In December, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data that showed there were 17 encounters at the southern border with individuals on the FBI terror watchlist, according to Fox News Digital. In total, FY23 saw a total of 169 terror watchlist encounters, marking a new record.

The security threats also extend beyond terror threats. Early this month, federal authorities nabbed an Afghan national on the terror watchlist on after he crossed the southern border illegally into California.  Last weekend, a 15-year-old illegal Venezuelan immigrant, Jesus Alejandro Rivas-Figueroa, was arrested in New York for firing a gun at a security guard and police in Times Square, reportedly hitting a tourist in the incident. The police caught up to him in Yonkers after he and his mother fled the city in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Rivas-Figueroa was charged as an adult and refused to answer any questions at his arraignment.

On Wednesday, an immigrant was arrested in a Queens mall robbery where he allegedly attacked the security guard, according to reports. The immigrant charged in the crime, Darwin Gomez-Izquiel, was previously detained in relation to another Times Square attack on New York police officers, but was released without bail at the time.

Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News