The Homeland Security Department's internal watchdog is unable to verify federal money for an immigration enforcement program was spent as Congress intended, according to a report issued Friday.
The department's inspector general said Congress gave Immigration and Customs Enforcement $11.1 million in 2009 and 2010 for compliance reviews for a program known as 287(g), which allows local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.
But the inspector general's office said when it tried to confirm expenditures it was unable to get all documents to back up spending.
"We made numerous requests for specific program funding data, and received varying explanations from program officials regarding the absence of data related to staffing, payroll, and other expenses charged against 287(g) program funds," said the report signed by Carlton Mann, assistant inspector general for inspections.
The inspector general's office said Immigration and Custom Enforcement reported spending $455,649 for "travel and transportation of things" The spending was for federal officials to review local agency compliance with the program's policies and rules.
That added up to $6,329 per person for travel by 72 people who did 15 reviews of agencies not within driving distance of Washington, D.C., the inspector general's office said.
The inspector general's office said its calculations of airfare, lodging and per diem rates, using costs from the most expensive place to travel to, added up to $2,300 per person.
The inspector general said Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reviewed its 287(g) spending and taken steps to document the spending, but the issues remain unresolved and open.
"We are reviewing the report's findings and will respond when that review is complete," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gillian Brigham. "That said, ICE has addressed the accounting issue identified in the report."
The inspector general's office has harshly criticized the 287(g) program in two previous reports and recommended many changes. The program has been attacked by immigration advocates and others who say it has led to racial profiling by local officers given powers to arrest or hold in jail people they believe are in the country illegally.
Supporters say the program provides immigration officials with additional manpower.
The inspector general also noted that the program's cost has risen to $68.3 million for fiscal year 2011, up from $5 million in 2006.
Online: Homeland Security Inspector General's report: http://bit.ly/9PY9ja