San Diego Union-Tribune

June 15, 2001 

Report: INS lapses in deporting criminals endanger flying public


WASHINGTON -- The Immigration and Naturalization Service has "placed the traveling public at risk" by not properly escorting violent criminals during deportation flights on commercial airlines, Justice Department investigators said yesterday.

A review of 158 cases in the past two years showed that immigration officials often ignored the INS's own policies designed to properly monitor criminals transported overseas, according to the report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General.

In some incidents, the INS did not screen potentially dangerous criminals before deporting them, or neglected to assign agents to guard criminals who may have posed a threat to the public, the report said.

Investigators reviewed flights handled by INS district offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and New York.

The investigation concluded that although no violent incidents were reported, "the INS placed the traveling public at potential risk because it did not consistently follow its established escort policy," said Glenn A. Fine, the Justice Department's inspector general.

Fine recommended that INS improve its policies and coordinate deportations with other U.S. agencies and foreign governments.

INS officials said they share the concerns.

"Wherever possible, we are moving aggressively to comply with the inspector general's recommendations and make appropriate modifications to our escort policy," said INS spokeswoman Karen Kraushaar.

In 1999 and 2000, the INS deported about 30,000 criminal foreigners, most of them Mexican nationals transported by bus. About 9,000 non-Mexicans were flown home -- overwhelmingly on civilian aircraft.

The inspector general's report found:

A sexual offender from Santo Domingo was deported from Newark, N.J., to the Dominican Republic without INS escorts.

A criminal firearms dealer and rapist was flown without any INS supervision from Miami to Belize.

A Kenyan sex offender was escorted by INS agents on only part of the
deportation trip from Atlanta to Nairobi. INS agents returned to the United States after the first leg of the trip, which ended in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The offender was allowed to travel alone the rest of the way.

The INS procedures were put in place in 1998 after Copley News Service disclosed problems with criminal deportees on commercial flights.