Washington, DC - Press Briefing by Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence:
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Good morning. Thank you for making time to be with us today. My name is Matt Albence. I’m the Deputy Director of ICE and the senior official performing the duties of the Director.
I want to take a moment before I begin to recognize and thank the sheriffs joining me today: Sheriff Robert Nolan from Cape May County, New Jersey; Sheriff Bill Waybourn from Tarrant County, Texas; Sheriff Butch Conway from Gwinnett County, Georgia; Sheriff Mike Lewis from Wicomico County, Maryland; and Sheriff Chuck Jenkins from Fredrick County, Maryland.
I’d also like to thank ICE Assistant Director Barbara Gonzalez from the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office for the work she does with these sheriffs to support their communities.
Two weeks ago today, I was joined at this podium, as I am today, by sheriffs from around the country: valued partners who understand the importance of law enforcement at every level, working together on behalf of all Americans.
We shared our ongoing frustration with jurisdictions that allow political rhetoric to get in the way of public safety, and the risks and dangers associated with bad laws and policies.
Since then, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ability to enforce immigration law has again fallen victim to judicial overreach. And our agency’s authorities are being singled out and marginalized in ways that no other federal law enforcement organization has to tolerate. Tying our hands from the bench does not make our country any safer.
Our commitment to justice is fundamental. The rule of law is a critical component of our democracy, but a recent ruling handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California holds ICE to a different standard for lawful cooperation and will hinder our ability to faithfully carry out our congressionally mandated mission.
This decision will threaten public safety, as it will lead to the release of criminal aliens back onto the street — criminals that we won’t find before they hurt or, worse, more innocent victims — victims that could have been spared their pain and suffering if only ICE had been allowed to do its job.
For decades now, immigration officers have utilized detainers as a collaborative law enforcement tool to request that other law enforcement agencies notify ICE upon the upcoming release of an alien that has been arrested for a criminal violation completely unrelated to their immigration status.
The detainer serves as a request to hold that person for a short period of time, enabling ICE to assume custody. ICE issues detainers based on a finding by trained immigration officers that there is probable cause to believe an individual is a removable alien.
Like all law enforcement agencies, ICE utilizes all evidence at its disposal to determine if probable cause exists, including various databases and electronic data. Probable cause is the same legal standard that other law enforcement agencies must meet in order to make an arrest.
The reality is we live in an electronic age where information is increasingly digitized, and evidence used to support a finding of probable cause will likely stem from databases, to include those that contain biometric data and other similar data sources.
Despite this reality, a judge in California has opined that immigration officers cannot develop probable cause to believe that an individual may be removable based on certain database checks alone.
This conclusion is out of step with the realities of modern law enforcement, endangers the public, and construes probable cause in an unfairly restrictive way. Moreover, this decision, issued by a single judge in Los Angeles, will impact at least 43 states, threatening communities far beyond the one in which this judge sits.
While I wish I could say this is an isolated occurrence, it is but the latest example of judicial overreach targeting immigration enforcement and the application of laws already passed by Congress, often decades ago.
Time and again, DHS has been prevented from exercising the authority granted to it by Congress because of the decisions of unelected judges who substitute their judgment for that of our legislators or the government officials entrusted with enforcing our laws.
We need people to understand the laws we enforce were not written by ICE. We do not grant ourselves the power to enforce them. Our authorities come from the United States Congress; from the laws they draft, debate, pass, and send to the President for signature. Accordingly, these decisions are not just an attack on DHS and the executive branch, but an attack on the ability of Congress to carry out its most basic function of passing laws for the protection and general welfare of our country.
Our commitment is to strengthen national security and uphold public safety, which we accomplish by enforcing the law as it has been enacted: with the utmost professionalism, despite challenges faced by no other law enforcement agency in this country.
Mitigating some of the challenges faced by ICE through cooperation with our state and local law enforcement agencies in every jurisdiction would make our public safety efforts more effective and our entire country safer.
To be clear, we ask only for the cooperation provided to other federal agencies within the law enforcement community. We ask no law enforcement agency to enforce immigration laws on our behalf, except those who have volunteered to obtain this authority under the 287(g) program, within which we have 79 valued, trusted partners — some of them on stage with us today.
Despite significant changes in immigration patterns — both legal and illegal — over the last 20 years, Congress has failed to modernize our laws accordingly. And unfortunately, as we have seen repeatedly in this context, Congress will only act or even acknowledge there is a crisis when it has no other choice.
Congressional inaction in the face of a documented and growing public safety threat is not only an abdication of its duty; it is dangerous to all who reside in this country, citizen and immigrant alike.
As much as I would like to, I cannot stand here today and promise you that dangerous criminal aliens are not being let out of jails to potentially harm others. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. And court decisions that negate our lawful authorities only compound this risk. To be clear, the principal beneficiaries of the recent court decision limiting ICE’s ability to use its detainer authorities are criminal aliens who have been arrested for criminal offenses by state and local jurisdictions.
What I can promise you, however, is that ICE and our cooperative partners will do everything in our power, consistent with the law, to prevent the release of dangerous criminal aliens into your communities, and when they are released by sanctuary jurisdictions, to take them off the street before they can re-offend.
But the threat to your communities remains, and it is real. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers throughout the country are out there every day, unnecessarily putting themselves in harm’s way, searching for repeat and often violent offenders who were released from custody because local law enforcement is not permitted, or makes the conscious decision to not cooperate with ICE, and a lawfully placed detainer request and warrant are ignored.
A recent case, in a litany of tragic examples, clearly illustrates this danger. Carlos Carillo Lopez entered this country illegally as an unaccompanied alien child in 2015. He was arrested no less than four times in the past seven months in the state of Washington, for charges including criminal trespass, theft, malicious mischief, and failure to appear. Each time, ICE lodged a detainer; each time, the detaining entities — proud sanctuary jurisdictions — released him without notifying ICE. Tragically, on September 30, 2019, he was arrested for homicide, his victim another young man.
ICE has made approximately 140,000 arrests this year. About 75 percent of those arrests came from ICE working with the jails and prisons. The other 25 percent are made by ICE’s at-large teams. It is critically important work, but it takes a lot more time and resources to make those arrests, at a much greater risk to our officers, the public, and the subjects themselves, when we could have apprehended those criminal aliens from the safe confines of a jail upon their release.
Moreover, ICE’s ability to conduct this at-large enforcement has been increasingly crippled by Congress’s failure to provide sufficient additional funding for detention beds, transportation, ICE officers and agents, and attorneys.
Unfortunately, ICE is seeing its efforts to protect this country undermined by more than just certain courts. Just last week, the New Jersey Attorney General took another step to undercut how individual sheriffs are working directly with ICE.
We have two partners in our 287(g) program in New Jersey where we have designated and trained local jail officers who work under ICE supervision to identify criminal aliens in their custody.
These partnerships are vital to our success. They give ICE the operational flexibility to use resources that would otherwise be assigned to those jails, and to be redeployed to target dangerous, at-large criminal aliens — many from neighboring jurisdictions who fail to provide such cooperation.
These sheriffs, in Monmouth and Cape May Counties — elected by their constituents to perform their duties in a manner that reflected their desires — had established a great working relationship with ICE. But the State Attorney General thinks he knows better what’s for those communities than the people within them. I don’t understand how an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the state, tells other law enforcement officers under his command to ignore the law.
Perhaps he made a few friends in the statehouse and the Governor’s office, but he surely did nothing to put the citizens of New Jersey at greater risk. Excuse me, he surely did nothing but put the citizens of New Jersey at greater risk.
The oath of office taken by the men and women of ICE means something to us, which is why we will adapt, like we always do. Why we will persevere, like we always do. Why we’ll continue to put our lives on the line to protect the American public, despite the best efforts of those who would like to see no enforcement or open borders.
But make no mistake: Rulings from any individual federal court sitting in a single judicial district but purporting to cripple ICE authorities on a nationwide basis puts people at risk — innocent victims whose lives will be forever changed for the worse all across our great country. And we could’ve stopped it.
There are more than 3,000 sheriffs in this country, and the vast majority of them see the benefit in working with ICE, honoring our requests to hold someone, or even something as simple as notifying us before criminal aliens are released. We have done this for decades because it is good policy and it is even better public safety.
I’ll take a few questions, but first I want to introduce Sheriff Waybourn from Tarrant County, Texas, to make a few remarks.
SHERIFF WAYBOURN: Thank you, Matt. It’s an honor to be here, especially standing with our brothers and sisters in Immigration Enforcement, along with my fellow sheriffs. And let me just be clear about this, is that the narrative of trying to go after ICE and Immigrations is very much like the narrative that was used against our Vietnam returning soldiers. They’re eviscerating honorable people doing noble things, standing on the wall between good and evil for you and me. And if these people want to change things, Capitol Hill is down the street. And that’s where they’re changed at. They’re not the policymakers, but people will often get confused with that.
But drilling down just a little bit, in Tarrant County, Texas — it’s the 15th largest county in the nation — is this morning, we had 4,200 inmates. Out of that, 7 percent were illegal aliens. And they were being held for such offenses as murder, sexual assault of children — there was about 70 of them — and there were robbers in there, and kidnappers, and people who committed arson, and people who were DWI.
And out of that, you know, you think about that, if we returned them with this radical ruling out of California, where you have a federal judge making law for the nation, or attempting to, it will put our communities in jeopardy.
Of those people that we have in custody, we know for a fact that 72 percent of them are repeat offenders. So if we have to turn them loose, or they get released — they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood — these drunks will run over your children and they will run over my children. And if that happens, I know that you will want, and certainly I would want for you, the full force of the law. And Immigrations is part of that full force. These people have come into the country illegally. And I understand that many of these migrants come across that river, down there in Texas, looking for a better day, for something better for their family. And I don’t think anybody disagrees with that.
But the problem is, the very people that they were fleeing, who preyed upon them, came with them. And that’s who we’re trying to initially eliminate out of our country.
In Tarrant County, you have to commit a Class-B misdemeanor or higher to even have your immigration status challenged in our jail. But it’s in our jail that that happens at. They’ve already committed another offense to get there.
And — but with victims — and there’s plenty of them — and the people that we have in jail are here illegally in the first place. Then they commit an offense against one of our citizens, and often, some people from their own community. For instance, aggravated sexual assault on children are not children who are legally here. They’re their children that are here illegally. And, fortunately, those people are crying out and we’re taking care of them and treating them as victims. We work with ICE on those things, and they’re not deported. We don’t even ask them their immigration status. We make sure that we can prosecute these people to the full extent of the law. And once again, that full extent includes their immigration status.
And I — you know, as in Texas, as the Director said, we take an oath of office down there, and it says we will defend the Constitution and will uphold the federal laws. And anything less than that, such as the Attorney General in New Jersey, I think he forsakes his oath.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Excuse me, I’m going to have Assistant Director Gonzalez speak briefly, and then I’ll answer your questions. Thank you.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR GONZALEZ: Thank you, Director. Good morning. It’s an honor to be here today representing the men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. First off, I want to say I’ve been with ICE since it was created, and prior to that, I was with Immigration and Naturalization Service. So I’ve been in public service over 20 years, and I have served in many administrations.
I also help lead the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, a very important office where we’re helping victims who have been impacted by crimes committed by individuals with a nexus to immigration.
I’ve had to hold the hand of too many mothers who have lost a child to a DUI, or somebody else who’s been raped by an illegal alien or someone with a nexus to immigration. It is a problem. It is a problem we cannot ignore as a country. We have the sovereign responsibility to protect our borders.
And the fact of the matter is, while crime happens in America, these people weren’t supposed to be here in the first place unlawfully, in many of these cases. So, many of these people violated immigration law and then subsequently went and killed others. It is a problem, and it is one that should not be partisan.
We have people that are being victimized — and not just Americans being victimized; other people from other countries as well that are here lawfully. And also, individuals that may be here unlawfully, as the Sheriff said, are being victimized or being raped or being abused.
So I really want to impart the importance of this conversation: that public safety needs to come before any political rhetoric. And this is about public safety. And, really, I think that everybody needs to have this conversation where, sure, crime happens, but these crimes were preventable because many of these individuals shouldn’t have been here in the country in the first place.
So I just wanted to share that with you. Thank you.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Sir.
Q Is there a new approach or a new outreach that you all might consider? Just because it seems like this thing is going the wrong direction on you. You got the probable cause case out in the West Coast. You got this GitHub contract controversy going. D.C. Council here, right in town, just voted essentially to go the other way from, you know, what you’ve been advocating. Is there a new approach you can try?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, this is part of that new approach, but frankly, we liaise with these jurisdictions continually. Our field office directors, our special agents in charge, have relationships in these jurisdictions.
I think as I mentioned last time I was up here, Secretary Johnson himself went to New York City, went to Chicago multiple times, trying to get these jurisdictions to cooperate with this. This is not a new problem. This is not a problem limited to one administration. This is a problem in which politics — and people are using politics and putting it ahead of public safety.
Why doesn’t the D.C. City Council try to figure out a way to help us to get these criminals out? If everybody is complaining about resources and they don’t have enough cops to work the area, one of the easiest ways is as Sheriff Waybourn mentioned. A lot of these are recidivist offenders. We know, out in California, out of one cohort that we’ve been tracking, 46 percent of these individuals are repeat offenders.
So it’s these jurisdictions that are continually dealing with the crime problems created by these individuals. It seems perfectly logical to find a way, if they’re here unlawfully, to assist us to get them out of those communities.
Q But there’s no middle ground, right? I mean, how — there’s got to be something you can say to those —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: What’s the middle ground on public safety? How safe? Do we want to be somewhat safe or do we want to be as safe as possible? I don’t think there’s a middle ground for public safety.
Q But they won’t negotiate or anything.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Ma’am.
Q Yes. What do you attribute the spike in illegal crossings to at the end of the fiscal year of this year?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I mean, this is something that we’ve spoken about a significant amount. I’ll answer it briefly because I really want to stay on the topic. But we’ve talked about —
Q Well, it is topic.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, what we’re talking about here is public safety. We’re talking about criminal aliens that are — people that are here illegally already then getting engaged in other criminal activity.
The spike with regard to crossings, as we’ve documented very well: the fact that Congress has failed to act to fix the Flores loophole, to fix the TVPRA. Those pull factors, which allow people to come to this country, present as a family or as a UAC, and are — us having to ability to detain those individuals during the pendency of the immigration process, and thus having them be released. It’s all about the release. The goal of these people is to — that are coming here illegally, is to get into the country and to be released.
Q But haven’t you stepped up measures? Sorry, haven’t you stepped up measures, though, with personnel as well as surveillance and things of that nature to help prevent or to push back those who are coming across the border?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, again, we’ve — under this administration, we’ve created a lot of programs. And as you’ve seen the numbers, they’ve gone down somewhat over the past several months. We’re still not out of the crisis. But the Migrant Protection Protocols program, the IFR with regard to safe third countries, the 71 miles of new wall that’s been built — I would love to have put more resource to it.
And this is one of the problems with this issue, is that we’ve had to redeploy our ICE resources to support the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection with those challenges at the border, which has made us less safe because we’ve had some field offices where we’ve had to shut down our at-large criminal alien teams so that they could handle the influx of people that are coming to this country illegally, as well as the increase in people in detention.
As a result, we arrest — we’re going to arrest about 15,000 or so fewer criminal aliens this year as a result of what’s going on at the border.
So, for those people that say we should be going after the worst of the worst and going after criminal aliens, I would love to, but that has to come with strong border security.
Q Thank you. You opened your remarks by criticizing a federal judge who ruled that you couldn’t use databases that were inaccurate enough that they were causing you to detain American citizens. So what I’m just trying to figure out, sir: Under what circumstances do you think that judges should be able to order your agency to do or not do things? Do you reject the courts’ authority to tell you what the law is?
And also, Hogan, it’s been 213 days since our last briefing. Could you maybe come up here when they’re done and talk to us for a bit?
MR. HOGAN: I’ll discuss that with you afterwards. This is about another topic.
Go ahead, sir.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, unfortunately, the litigation is ongoing and there’s very little I could say more than what I’ve said already. Obviously, we respect judge rulings — judges’ rulings. We do that all day. We’re law enforcement officers, and we have to respect the —
Q (Inaudible) —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Excuse me, I’m answering your question.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: We respect the laws that Congress has passed, and we enforce them in accordance with the matter in which Congress has said. When judicial rulings come out, we abide by those judicial rulings. If those judicial rulings are overturned, then we abide by that.
We don’t get the ability, nor should we have the ability, to pick and choose what laws that we should enforce.
Q But the judge was telling you, sir, that —
Q Thank you, Acting Director Albence —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Ma’am, go ahead.
Q Thank you. You said that with the lack of cooperation, you’re always adapting — you’re looking at ways of adapting. What are you currently doing? There have been talks of DNA sampling, facial recognition. Can you just explain that a little bit better?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, we’re utilizing DNA sampling right now in the border environment, trying to ferret out the false families. As I mentioned earlier, many of the individuals that are coming here to this country are not legitimate families.
So, the family units, they’re utilizing the loopholes in the Flores Settlement Agreement to come here as a family, which has led to significant numbers of children being recycled and victimized for the sole purpose of unrelated adults posing as a family unit with those children. That’s what the DNA sampling goes after. We’re hitting about a 15 percent rate of individuals or families presenting as families that really aren’t families. And we’re prosecuting those cases.
We got great support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office along the southwest border, but we’ve processed more — or, excuse me, prosecuted more than 1,000 cases along the southwest border dealing with fraudulent families or imposters.
We’ve also seen instances in which unaccompanied alien children, or adults are posing as unaccompanied alien children — 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds posing as 15-, 16-year-olds. And those children — those adults, unfortunately, end up in an HHS shelter that’s full of children. That is an unsafe environment for those children if you’re putting adults in there.
Q Director, but in regards to criminals being released and your office is not — or your agency not notified, how are you dealing with that and adapting to that? And in regards to the judge’s ruling in California that says this digital option or the database is not relevant?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Right. So, you know, we’re continuing to look to modify ways in which we can conduct our enforcement operations. Now that the (inaudible) on the border has slowed a bit, we’re able to pull back some of our resources and get them back out on the street. We rely upon our partners. We’ve increased the 287(g) program from 32, in 2017, to 79, now.
We have a Warrant Service Officer program, which is a limited authority program which will allow those cooperating jurisdictions to actually effectuate arrests on our behalf. As we expand that, that will give us greater bandwidth.
The easiest answer is: Congress can give us more resources for both officers and attorneys to work these cases, but they haven’t been deemed fit to do so.
Q Sir, can you just — to follow up on that, to what degree are you still targeting undocumented families as a deterrent to other migrants?
And my second question is, are you planning to conduct more workplace operations like we saw in Mississippi over the summer?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, the families that we are going after are those that have had the opportunity to avail themselves of due process in the immigration court system and have either not shown up, as the vast majority — about 87 percent, last time I checked the numbers, of those cases that were placed in the accelerated docket — have failed to show up for even their initial court hearing. Those that do go through the court process and are ordered removed by an immigration judge, it’s incumbent upon us to effectuate those removal orders so that there’s integrity to the system.
Our system is going to have no integrity if these removal orders are not actually effectuated. So we will continue, as we said back when we started this family unit operation, we’ll continue to do it. We have teams out there every day going after these family units. And it’s not — it’s not a matter of deterrence. Deterrence is an effect of us enforcing the law.
What was your second question?
Q How has that operation grown? How has it grown?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: How has it grown?
Q Since the President pushed for it?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, the number — the number of families that continue to fail to show up for their court hearings and then get removal orders continues to grow.
Q Director, a follow-up about the workplace operations that we saw in Mississippi?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, Mississippi was just one operation. We enforced more than 400 laws that Congress has passed. Those laws regarding legal employment and worksite enforcement are part of that portfolio. We’ll continue to do those cases.
Q Director, thank you. Quick question about what you want the American people to understand about the crisis itself. They will hear this, they will hear you, and they will want the brass tax. What are you trying to say, simply speaking, about what you’re attempting to do and what you’re not getting from other stakeholders, like congressional lawmakers and local law enforcement, or rather, local leadership, in places like Chicago or Texas or whatever?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: What I would tell them is that if they live in a sanctuary jurisdiction, their elected and appointed leaders are making them less safe.
Q Could you speak to the issue of the accuracy of the databases that ICE is using —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Obviously, as I mentioned —
Q — that, at times, led to the arrest of American citizens? Is ICE getting better at this?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, I can’t speak to ongoing litigation. As part of our investigations, we’ll be taking enforcement actions against somebody. That includes a very substantial investigation into an individual’s background.
Many times, individuals that we come across that are United States citizens don’t even know that they are, because the laws around citizenship are so complicated.
Q Director, a follow. A couple of questions. I want to follow up with you on something that I asked your counterpart at CBP earlier this week. How many children are currently being held at the border?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Okay, so, that’s a perfect question for Mark Morgan, because he controls the detention facilities. ICE has no authority to detain children. Under the TVPRA, ICE has —
Q You’re not briefed on those numbers at all? You don’t know? Okay.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I’m sure he answered you at the time you asked it.
Q No, we haven’t gotten an answer yet —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I would follow up with his press people, I’m sorry.
Q — which is why I was wondering if you guys had an answer.
Broader question: The President has expressed concerns about terrorists making their way across the border — the need to prevent that. Given what we’re seeing in Syria right now, given that there are reports that ISIS fighters are being released as we speak, how concerned are you about that? What are you doing to make sure that they don’t, in fact, cross over if they were to make their way here? And are you in touch with any counterparts (inaudible)?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, we have an extensive attaché network within our Homeland Security investigations. We have visa security posts in over 35 locations throughout the world. We continue to expand those programs as Congress gives us funding with which to do so. ICE is the second-largest participant in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. We do a significant amount of investigations involving individuals that are suspected of or believe —
Look, this agency — in fact, this entire department — was sworn after 9/11. Our primary mission is national security. And that goes along with public safety.
Q Again, just to follow up on something I asked you last time you were here: One of the biggest complaints that sanctuary jurisdictions have about ICE is that they would like to cooperate, but when victims — as you noted, most of the victims of crime of illegal immigrants are themselves illegal immigrants, and when they come forward and show up, you all prosecute them and take them away as well. Can you assure that community that that’s not the case? Can you make a guarantee that you will not go after the victims of crime but those that are perpetrating the crime?
And to follow up — and just a real quick follow to what you said earlier about having to help out Border Patrol: Is that not because there are — we have been promised — the President promised like 10,000 new Border Patrol agents, but because of pay disputes, you haven’t been able to hire that many?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, let me address that one first. We can only the hire the people that Congress appropriates funds for. ICE has no problem hiring people. Our non-retirement —
Q You’re helping out Border Patrol because they have been able to hire —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Understand we can only hire up to the level that Congress has authorized and appropriated. So, we fill our vacancies very quickly. We don’t have a problem with hiring individuals. Our non-attrition — excuse me, non-retirement attrition rate is about 2 percent.
Q That’s in ICE?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: That’s in ICE, correct.
Q Okay. And then —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I can’t speak to CBP’s hiring.
But to your first question — and as the Sheriff mentioned there — and I believe I mentioned this last time: We generally find out about an individual through their interaction with the criminal justice system. That interaction means that they were booked into a jurisdiction’s facility, their fingerprints were run, their data was taken. They bounce off the FBI’s databases and they bounce off our databases. That is how we find out about these individuals.
Victims are not booked into criminal custody. Absent that, we would not be out there looking for victims. We would not even know who the — in most cases — I’m answering your question.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: In most cases, we would not know who the victims are.
And I will tell you, in many of these cases that we work jointly with our state and local partners, we have an extensive network of victim assistance specialists within ICE because we deal with so many victims when it comes to human trafficking, smuggling, when it comes to child exploitation. We deal with victims all day long, unfortunately. I wish we didn’t have to deal with so many victims, but we do. And we’re very skilled at working with them. And we work with prosecutors and everybody in the criminal justice system to ensure that if there is a case that they want to prosecute, that they have the people available to do so.
Q But if they come forward do you have to get rid of them?
Q Yes, sir. You mentioned resource reallocation. I’m wondering if you can provide us any breakdown between arrests and deportation of people with final orders of removal, versus anyone with past criminal convictions and other people of interest.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So we’ve been putting — well, first off, we can only remove those individuals with final orders of removal. So everybody that we remove has a final order of removal. So we removed, I believe, 246,000 or so people last year. Every one of those individuals had a final order of removal.
We’ll probably arrest around 140,000 people this year. We’ll be releasing our numbers in the not-too-distant future. I don’t have the exact breakdown of how many of those already have final orders. But that’s a good question and one that I think there’s misinformation out there about.
When we arrest somebody that’s here illegally, if they have not already been through the court process and had their due process, they get that ability. This is the front end of the process. Just when these sheriffs arrest somebody for aggravated assault or domestic violence, that arrest — they don’t go from arrest to prison and serve a sentence. They have to go through the judicial process within the criminal justice system. We have a process within the Executive Office of Immigration Review that provides for that same due process in the immigration courts.
Sir, right behind you.
Q Thanks, sir. Yeah. There are rumors of — a couple of months ago, there was an attempted attack at a Tacoma ICE facility, and there’s been a lot of social media threats toward ICE facilities or agents. Has that been a problem in terms of the ability to enforce laws? And has there been extra protection for agents or anything like that?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, obviously, the safety and security of our personnel, officers and non-officers alike, is our primary concern. I think that’s why we’ve been so strident with our concerns about some of the ugly rhetoric that has been utilized around this issue and the vilification of the men and women of ICE and CBP and our other DHS partners that are merely enforcing the laws that Congress has passed.
It’s especially disheartening when it comes from individuals who actually have the ability to pass laws or change laws if they don’t like them. But instead, they would rather vilify our officers for doing their sworn duties.
You know, a third of our officers are military veterans. They were heroes before they ever strapped on a badge. And they should be given the respect as any other law enforcement officer in this country.
So it is, yes. And I’m very concerned. It’s dangerous. And hopefully those people that have opinions as to how immigration enforcement should be conducted would do so in a professional and responsible manner.
MR. GIDLEY: Let’s do one more.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: One more.
Q Sir, we you mentioned the GitHub issue earlier. I wonder if you could comment on that, whether —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I can’t. I can’t.
Q Is that contract — are you having any problem as ICE getting (inaudible)?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I learned about it this morning so I can’t really —
Q But you’re not having no problem? Are tech companies willing to work with you given the current discourse between you and Secretary —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: No, we’re — we’re doing fine.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, I want to get one question that’s on topic. Sir.
Q You mentioned that 246,000 people were removed last year. Do you have any data about how many were criminal and how many were families?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: We do. It’s on our website. I would say about criminals — and I don’t want to get it wrong, but it’s in the 140,000 or so range. But it’s right on our website. If you go to our FY18 yearend report you can look at it.
Q But you don’t have the data for ’19 yet?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: We have the data for ’19. I don’t have it in — we’re going through and vetting it. And we’re releasing it shortly.
Q Do you expect an expansion of the counties that are working right now — the 287(g) counties? And how many more do you think will join up?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I mean, I can’t predict the future. I think we will. We’ve seen the expansion. Again, the best partners when it comes to us working in the civil immigration enforcement and getting criminal aliens off the street are these sheriffs right here.
We work very closely with a lot of police departments, with our Homeland Security investigations doing criminal investigations. But generally, the entities that are detaining individuals for their criminal violations are the sheriffs. And those are the ones that we work with closely. I expect we will continue to expand it.
Thank you very much for your time.