The Biden administration is unable to effectively track illegal immigrants released into the United States while they await asylum hearings, according to Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Tae Johnson.
In a Thursday appearance before the House Appropriations Committee, Johnson admitted to Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) that there are "some gaps" in the government's ability to track released illegals, adding "for individuals that are just released with a notification to report to ICE or to show up to court, our ability to track those folks closely is much more limited."
Johnson then acknowledged that ICE is unable to tell Iowa (or any state, we assume) how many illegal immigrants are residing in the state, or have been released into the country.
🚨Acting ICE Administrator Johnson just admitted that ICE is not tracking illegal immigrants once they're in the US & that ICE has no idea how many illegal immigrants are currently in Iowa or planning to go to Iowa once released from federal custody at the border. Unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/NutPqeuavx— Ashley Hinson (@RepAshleyHinson) May 13, 2021
During the hearing, Johnson also defended the Biden administration's decision to maintain several Trump-era policies, including the CDC's so-called Title 42 rule, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give immigrants medical examinations before they're released into the United States. Over 650,000 migrants have been expelled under Title 42 since its inception in March 2020. The Biden administration has used Title 42 to extensively deport single adults and even families, however unaccompanied children are exempt following a late 2020 ruling.
"ICE is concerned that the loss of Title 42 could create additional pressure on our immigration system," said Johnson, calling the rule "critical" to maintaining social distance in border facilities.
"I don’t think it’s a situation where it’s going to just be lifted electively. We would be mandated by some sort of court order to lift it," he added.
Johnson also answered questions over ICE agreements with local law enforcement agencies which allow officers to carry out immigration and enforcement duties - which Biden pledged to repeal while on the campaign trail. The agreements, expanded under Trump, have come under renewed scrutiny by Democratic lawmakers.
"It is unfortunate that the prior administration’s aggressive interior enforcement policies placed demands on many local law enforcement agencies that have compromised the trust they work so hard to nurture in their communities," said Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).
Johnson replied that the policy was useful, but that it did not need to be imposed on cities and states which object to it.
"It doesn’t have to be signing up for [the] 287(g) program but we just want to keep those lines of communication open," he said, adding that there "is lots of middle ground out there."
"I certainly recognize the issues associated with some that think that it just results in certain folks being apprehended and potentially targeted, which is certainly something I don't think any of us want to see."