The Department of Justice “sponsored” approximately 5,500 foreign nationals to come to or stay in the country between 2015 and 2017 in order to provide assistance to the DOJ in criminal cases, according to a June audit from the DOJ inspector general.
Sixty-two absconded, escaping the DOJ’s monitoring, and in 18 other cases, DOJ components “did not request sponsorship renewal or termination in a timely manner and therefore let the foreign nationals fall into an illegal status,” according to the report.
“Failing to report instances of absconsion inhibits DHS’s ability to execute its responsibilities to locate and handle absconders. This is especially problematic for law enforcement-sponsored foreign nationals because these individuals often have criminal histories or are involved with criminal organizations,” the report said.
The DOJ and its law enforcement agencies “can sponsor legal U.S. residency for foreign nationals for various law enforcement purposes such as when those individuals are confidential informants [or] cooperating witnesses” in cases involving major criminal activity or terrorism, the report said. Law enforcement “can benefit from the assistance of foreign nationals because of their access to criminal enterprises and ability to provide testimony in support of prosecution.”
But for the same reasons, “significant risks accompany the sponsoring of foreign nationals to support law enforcement investigations because these individuals may be associated with criminal activity and motivated only by the ability to reside in the United States.”
If the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) want to bring such a person in the country, it “certifies that it assumes responsibility for the control and legal status of the foreign national, including monitoring the location and activities of the individual and ensuring notification to [the Department of Homeland Security] upon sponsorship termination,” the report said.
“We are concerned that the monitoring policies and practices currently executed by the DOJ components that sponsor foreign nationals do not adequately mitigate the risks associated with bringing individuals into the United States who may have criminal backgrounds or involvement in disreputable activities,” it said.
It said the DOJ has not always appropriately kept tabs on these people and that it has often failed to inform DHS of significant happenings.
DHS realized in February 2018 that for more than 1,000 cases, it did not receive required information from the FBI or DEA.
The report gave examples of the 62 that absconded, saying in one instance, “the case agent did not inform FBI headquarters of the foreign national’s status until over 7 months after determining that the individual had absconded. In another example, we reviewed a file indicating a foreign national had absconded and that FBI headquarters was informed of the absconsion over 5 months after it occurred and this notification came in response to FBI headquarters contacting the agent asking whether the individual’s sponsorship should be renewed.”
Under one form of sponsorship called S Visas — limited to 250 per year — snitches are rewarded with “a pathway to legal permanent residency” in exchange for “continued cooperation and information to combat complex criminal and terrorist organizations and activities.”
In another rare form, called PL-1110, the Central Intelligence Agency can grant such people immediate permanent legal residency.
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