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House Judiciary Committee Releases Details About Criminal Aliens Released by Obama Administration

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released 30,558 criminal aliens with a total of 79,059 convictions in Fiscal Year 2014, according to information ICE provided by to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The committee said Tuesday “ICE often claims that the Supreme Court’s decision in Zadvydas v. Davis forces them to release aliens that they normally would not want to release back into the community. However, the total number of convicted criminal aliens released based on the Zadvydas decision totaled 2,457 in Fiscal Year 2014, representing only 8 percent of the releases. Additionally, the criminal aliens released due to Zadvydas committed 16,126, or 20 percent, of the crimes committed by the released aliens.”

Among the convictions of criminal aliens released in FY2014 are 86 homicide convictions, 186 kidnapping convictions, 373 sexual assault convictions, 449 commercialized sexual offenses, 1,194 battery convictions, 1,346 domestic violence convictions and 13,636 driving under the influence of alcohol convictions.

The statistics were disclosed during an oversight hearing on ICE by the committee Tuesday.

Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said, “We just learned that in addition to releasing over 36,000 convicted criminal aliens in FY 2013, ICE released 30,558 convicted criminal aliens in FY 2014 pursuant to its so-called ‘priorities,’” He added that, “The agency released thousands of criminal aliens convicted of offenses involving dangerous drugs, assault and domestic violence, stolen vehicles, robbery, sex offenses, sexual assault, kidnapping, voluntary manslaughter, and even homicide. 27 percent of the aliens released were so called ‘level 1s’ according to the administration – the worst of the worst.”

“As the Obama Administration consistently shrinks the universe of criminal and unlawful aliens that ICE can remove, ICE apprehensions have decreased by 40 percent since this time last year,” Goodlatte said in his opening statement. “ICE administrative arrests of criminal aliens declined 32 percent compared to this time last year. The average daily population (ADP) of aliens in detention facilities has declined to approximately 26,000 beds. This has occurred despite a mandate in law that requires ICE to maintain a 34,000 ADP in detention facilities. And the number of unlawful or criminal aliens that ICE has removed from the interior of the country has fallen by more than half since 2008.”

“Many factors have contributed to the sharp decline of interior immigration enforcement under this administration, including the collapse of issuance and compliance with ICE detainers because of ICE’s own detainer policy issued on December 21, 2012 that limits ICE’s ability to issue detainers, ICE’s failure to defend its detainer authority, ICE’s implementation of its new enforcement priorities announced by [DHS] Secretary [Jeh] Johnson on November 20, 2014, and the demise of the Secure Communities program on this same date,” Goodlatte said.

Continuing, Goodlatte declared, “Detainers are a key tool used by ICE. They are notices issued by ICE and other DHS units that ask local, State and federal law enforcement agencies not to release removable aliens held at their facilities in order to give ICE an opportunity to take them into its custody and put them in removal proceedings … When aliens released onto the streets go on to commit additional crimes yet could have been placed in ICE custody, this administration is responsible.From January 1, 2014 to September 30, 2014, over 10,000 detainers were not honored. The recidivism rate for these aliens was 29 percent. Innocent citizens and law enforcement officers could be injured, maimed or murdered due to a detainer not being issued or honored because of this administration’s policies.”

“When President Obama announced unilateral changes to our immigration system with a wave of his ‘pen and cell phone’ on November 20, 2014, he indicated that he would allow millions of unlawful and criminal aliens to evade immigration enforcement,” Goodlatte said. “He did this with the issuance of new so-called ICE ‘priorities’ for the apprehension, detention and removal of aliens.”

“Under the Obama administration’s new enforcement priorities,” Goodlatte concluded, “broad categories of unlawful and criminal aliens will be beyond the reach of the law even if they don’t qualify for the President’s unconstitutional legalization programs. This means that millions of removable aliens will remain in the US without any risk of removal.”

“I have taken some initial steps to enhance ICE’s ability to achieve its primary goal of enforcing our nation’s immigration laws and keeping our country safe by ensuring we focus our resources on individuals who pose the greatest threat to our national security and public safety,” testified Sarah Saldana, who was sworn in as ICE director on December 23. “Having most recently served as the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas,” she told the committee, “I have a wealth of experience in enforcing the thousands of federal laws over which I had responsibility.”

Continuing, Saldana said, “Guided by DHS’ enforcement priorities, the approximately 7,300 personnel of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) identify and apprehend convicted criminals and other removable individuals; detain individuals and, as appropriate, supervise them through alternatives to detention; and remove from the United States those priority individuals determined to be illegally present or otherwise subject to removal.”

She said, “ERO enforces our nation’s immigration laws in a manner designed to best promote national security, public safety, and border security, placing the highest priority on the removal of recent border crossers, convicted criminals and those who otherwise pose a threat to our communities.”

“Pursuant to a memorandum issued by Secretary Johnson on November 20, 2014, Priority 1 aliens comprise threats to national security, border security and public safety,” she explained. “Priority 2 aliens include certain misdemeanants and new immigration violators who entered the United States after January 1, 2014. The removal of these individuals from the United States is a national priority that is carried out by a team of just under 5,700 law enforcement officers operating in nearly every jurisdiction of the United States.”

Saldana noted that, “ERO conducted Operation Cross Check VI, a five-day nationwide operation that resulted in the arrest of 2,058 convicted criminals.”

Four Republicans earlier sent a letter to Johnson requesting specific information regarding criminal aliens ICE announced were arrested during Operation Cross Check VI.

During the five-day, nationwide operation that targeted convicted criminal aliens subject to removal, ICE said it arrested 2,059 convicted criminals, and that two individuals were added to ICE’s most wanted fugitives list. The roundup raised questions about the administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

Led by ICE Enforcement and ERO, ICE said the 2,059 individuals with prior criminal convictions who were arrested included more than 1,000 individuals who have multiple criminal convictions. More than 1,000 of those arrested have felony convictions, including voluntary manslaughter, child pornography, robbery, kidnapping and rape.

Of the total 2,059 criminals arrested, 58 are known gang members or affiliates, and 89 are convicted sex offenders.

The vast majority of misdemeanor convictions were for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). ICE considers DUI offenders, particularly repeat offenders, to be a significant public safety threat.

Of those arrested during the operation, 476 were illegal re-entrants who’d previously been removed from the US. Because of their serious criminal histories and prior immigration arrest records, 163 of those arrested during the enforcement action were presented to US Attorneys for prosecution on a variety of charges, including illegal re-entry after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Last May, a Center for Immigration Studies report disclosed ICE released more than 36,000 convicted criminal aliens in deportation proceedings in Fiscal Year 2013. The released aliens had 88,000 convictions among them, including 16,070 drunk or drugged driving convictions, 9,187 dangerous drug convictions, 426 sexual assault convictions, 303 kidnapping convictions and 193 homicide convictions (including one willful killing of a public official with gun).

“This enumeration of FY 2013 criminal aliens freed and the criminal convictions tied to these individuals was prepared by ICE in response to congressional inquiries following a report published by the Center for Immigration Studies” that showed ICE officers declined to bring immigration charges in 68,000 cases of criminal aliens they encountered in 2013, said Jessica M. Vaughan, the author of the report and Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.

“It is important to recognize,” she said, “that the 36,007 criminal aliens counted in this document are a different set of cases from the 68,000 releases reported earlier. The 36,007 criminal aliens counted here are aliens who were being processed for deportation and were freed while awaiting the final disposition of their cases, or afterwards. The 68,000 releases were cases of alien criminals encountered by ICE officers, usually in jails, but who were let go in lieu of processing them for immigration removal charges in that year.”

For its part, ICE responded at the time saying many of the individuals released were done so under orders from US courts. ICE said 75 percent of the people released who had murder convictions were “mandatory releases.” Others released could not be returned to their home country and could not be detained indefinitely in ICE’s custody, the agency said. ICE further said the released undocumented aliens were monitored via GPS, telephone and in-person visits.”

“Others, typically those with less serious offenses,” ICE said, “were released as a discretionary matter after career law enforcement officers made a judgment regarding the priority of holding the individual, given ICE’s resources, and prioritizing the detention and removal of individuals who pose a risk to public safety or national security.”

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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