Immigration and Claims Subcommittee
House Committee on the Judiciary
July 15, 1997
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Institution Hearing Program (IHP) in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau).
Currently, there are approximately 24,470 non-U.S. citizens serving Federal sentences in Bureau custody. This figure represents 23.9 percent of the total sentenced Federal prison population.
The IHP is a cooperative effort of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Since 1989, the Bureau has assisted in this program by transferring criminal aliens to Bureau facilities with IHP programs and/or by providing, at some sites, office and courtroom space for deportation hearings.
Beginning in 1989, INS, EOIR, and the Bureau administered an IHP at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Oakdale, Louisiana, and subsequently opened limited programs at five other locations. The Oakdale program was originally established to provide deportation proceedings for male, non-Cuban, non-Mexican inmates prior to the completion of their sentences. Six hundred beds were set aside at FCI Oakdale for inmates to participate in the IHP.
The Bureau transferred inmates to FCI Oakdale approximately six months before the end of their sentences to make them available to INS and EOIR for deportation proceedings.
In addition to the Oakdale program, there were limited IHP programs at other institutions holding Bureau inmates: the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in La Tuna, Texas; the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas; the FCI in Danbury, Connecticut; the FCI in Dublin, California; and a contract detention center in Big Spring, Texas. The Danbury and Dublin IHP programs were for females. With the exception of Oakdale and the female programs, the IHP at these institutions was limited in scope in that inmates were not transferred to these institutions specifically for the IHP.
In July of 1994, the Bureau opened a joint Bureau-INS contract facility in Eloy, Arizona. This contract facility is divided into two sections: a section with 500 beds for Bureau inmates and another section with 750 beds for INS detainees. The Eloy facility was designed with courtrooms for EOIR judges and office space for INS and EOIR staff to provide an IHP for the Bureau inmates and deportation proceedings for the INS detainees.
The IHP at Eloy was the first program where non-U.S. citizens are designated specifically to receive their immigration hearings at the beginning of their sentence. After completion of their hearings, inmates are transferred to other institutions to free up beds for more non-U.S. citizens in need of hearings. Furthermore, the Eloy program provided hearings for Mexican nationals.
In March of 1996, the Bureau signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with INS and EOIR to assist them in the implementation of an Enhanced IHP Plan. The Enhanced Plan is designed to have the deportation status of non-U.S. citizens determined at the beginning of their sentence or well before their release date, rather than at the end. By doing this, INS can minimize the number of aliens detained after expiration of their sentences, and the Bureau can utilize the deportation decisions of INS to better manage our population. The IHP program at Eloy served as the model for the Enhanced IHP. Under the Enhanced IHP, the existing IHP programs were expanded, INS and EOIR staff were added, and new IHP sites were opened.
Implementation of the Enhanced IHP began in fiscal year 1996 and should be completed by the end of fiscal year 1997. When fully implemented, there will be a total of 11 IHP programs. The Bureau has identified 4,200 beds for non-U.S. citizens being processed for immigration hearings.
The Enhanced Plan also identifies 26 institutions that will be used as Release Sites for inmates found to be deportable. The Bureau has identified 5,600 beds at these institutions for inmates who have completed the hearing process and have deportation orders.
In addition to the identification of IHP and Release Sites, the Bureau has implemented new information-sharing procedures to notify INS of non-U.S. citizens entering Bureau custody. The Bureau provides INS a monthly data file that includes the names and other identifying information about all new non-U.S. citizens designated to each IHP site. INS staff also have access to the Bureau's inmate information system to identify non-U.S. citizens before their arrival at the IHP sites.
The implementation of the Enhanced Plan has involved two major initiatives. The first was the identification or construction of suitable office and hearing space for INS and EOIR staff at the IHP sites. Construction costs, when necessary, were assumed, in large part, by INS.
Second, the process of designating non-U.S. citizens to specific institutions for IHP hearings and then, once the hearings are completed, transferring these inmates to Release Sites required the development of new policies and procedures. In addition, the Bureau has had to train staff on these new policies and procedures.
A total of 9,800 beds (4,200 hearing beds and 5,600 release beds) have been identified for the IHP hearing and release programs. Already, more than 85 percent of the IHP beds are filled, and it is anticipated that these beds will be fully occupied by IHP inmates by the end of fiscal year 1997.
Since the non-U.S. citizens in Bureau custody are primarily low-security, Mexican nationals serving sentences of less than six years, the IHP sites are mostly low-security facilities located near the Mexican border. In 1996, an analysis of the Bureau population revealed that only nine percent of the non-U.S. citizens are medium- or high-security inmates. Further, most medium- and high-security inmates decrease to low security by the time they are within five years of release.
Under the Enhanced Plan, the Bureau designates all newly-sentenced non-U.S. citizens serving less than six years directly to an IHP site. This group represents over 80 percent of the non-U.S. citizens.
Newly-sentenced non-U.S. citizens serving more than six years are designated according to standard Bureau designation procedures. Generally, these inmates are medium- or high-security or are serving lengthy sentences. When they are within five years of release, they are transferred to an IHP site.
The IHP at FCI Oakdale will continue to operate as it is for those aliens currently in the system who have not completed their hearing process up-front. As these inmates complete their hearings, Oakdale will convert to an "up-front" IHP site.
The Enhanced Plan calls for designating aliens with deportation orders to a Release Site after their hearing in order to expedite the removal process. Twenty-six institutions have been identified as Release Sites. These institutions are strategically located to assist in the removal process. The Bureau and INS have agreed to expand the number of Release Sites in fiscal year 1998.
Once the Enhanced Plan is fully implemented, the number of aliens who receive their deportation orders while serving their Federal sentences will increase significantly. As a result, the number of aliens detained by INS after expiration of sentence will be minimized.
Throughout the development and implementation of the IHP, the Bureau, INS, and EOIR staff have cooperated fully with each other, working together and collaborating on all aspects of the Ehanced Plan.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my formal statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee might have.