The Department of Homeland Security’s ICE Air doesn’t fly to the North Pole, but it might just as well have for all the empty seats and wasted taxpayer money it has been responsible for. So indicates an April 9 audit of the department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Air Operations. “A limited analysis of detainees transferred multiple times identified six detainees with redundant transfers that may not have been necessary,” notes the report. “ICE Air moved all six detainees multiple times between the same cities.”
One example involved the roundabout way in which a deportee bound from San Diego to El Salvador first was flown to Phoenix on November 14, 2012, then back to San Diego on November 20, and once again to Phoenix the next day before finally being airlifted out of the country. Another detainee was flown from Denver to El Paso on July 22, 2013, then to Phoenix on July 24, returned to Denver on August 14, and back to El Paso on August 22, before disembarking for Mexico. Adds the audit, “It was not possible to determine whether the transfers were necessary,” because the government “does not collect and analyze data related to redundant transfers to determine the frequency, causes, or possible solutions.”
Besides multiple trips, auditors also found bad scheduling was causing high rates of vacant seats on the chartered flights. ICE “may have been able to save up to $41.1 million to transport detainees had it operated each flight at full capacity,” according to the document.