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ICE’s Release of Nearly 20,000 Criminal Aliens Put Local Communities at Risk

ICE’s Release of Nearly 20,000 Criminal Aliens Put Local Communities at Risk Homeland Security TodayImmigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last year released nearly 20,000 criminal illegal aliens who have been convicted of 64,197 crimes — including homicide, rape, kidnapping, and other egregious crimes—which put local communities at risk.

Criminal convictions included 208 homicides, 216 kidnappings, 352 commercialized sexual offenses, 804 robberies, 1,317 weapon offenses, 1,728 assault charges, and 12,307 drunk driving incidents, according to data from ICE.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on April 28, 2016 to examine the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policies and procedures relating to the release of criminal aliens, and to assess the impactof those policies on public safety.

Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) asked ICE, “How many drug dealers, how many rapists, how many kidnappers do you let get an ‘out of jail free card?’”

Although the number of criminal aliens released from ICE custody decreased in 2015 compared to the previous two years, from 36,007 in 2014 to 19,723 in 2015, the alarming number of criminal aliens released onto US streets is alarming and continues to raise questions over the safety of US communities.

In June 2015, 41-year-old Jean Jacques, a Haitian national, was convicted in the killing of 25-year old Connecticut woman Casey Chadwick. Jacques had a previous attempted murder conviction and should have been deported, but Haiti refused to take him back.

During the hearing, Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told ICE, “I want you to prioritize Americans rather than those other countries… Let’s know and understand which countries are not taking back the criminals that came here illegally and should be deported back into their country. ”

Casey’s mother, Wendy Hartling, testified at the hearing. She noted that the family is eagerly awaiting the results of an investigation into the matter by DHS’s Inspector General. In the meantime, they are mourning a death that they believe was avoidable.

“If ICE and Homeland Security had done their job Casey would not have died and I would not be here as part of the club of Homicide Survivors which no parent wants to join,” Hartling said.

Another recent example of the risk of criminal aliens to US communities is the July 2015 shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican illegal immigrant with a criminal record who had been deported several times. Steinle died in a hospital two hours after a bullet struck her in the back while strolling on Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district in San Francisco, California.

Immigration enforcement policy again came into the spotlight with the death of Sarah Root. Sarah was killed on Sunday, January 31, 2016 at approximately 2:00 a.m. by a drunk driver and illegal immigrant, Edwin G. Mejia. Sarah’s father, Scott Root, told the panel that less than 24 hours before Sarah was killed, she walked with a 4.0 GPA with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Investigations from Bellevue University.

“My family and friends will not stop until people at the local and federal level are held accountable and her killer brought to justice,” said Root. “When Edwin is caught, he will face 20 years in prison, 8-10 years with good behavior, but my family is facing a life sentence without her. Her death was avoidable and would not have occurred if not for the failed policies of the Obama administration that allowed the laws to be ignored and an incompetent local judicial system.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) questioned, “Why [was] the killer of Sarah Root not detained…? I’m looking back so we can look forward and prevent the next one [from happening] and that’s about all we can do… look back and see what facts we were given.”

Ralph Martin, Police Chief for the City of Santa Maria, California, testified regarding the case of 64 year old Santa Maria resident, Marilyn Pharis, who became the victim of a “brutal and vicious attack” on the morning of July 24, 2015 when two suspects broke into her home, sexually assaulted her, strangled her, and beat her about her head and face with a hammer.

One of the suspects, Victor Martinez-Ramirez, is an illegal alien from Mexico who had been arrested by the Santa Maria Police Department six times in the previous 15 months. He was released from the Santa Barbara County Jail 96 hours before he attacked Pharis.

“Whenever the federal or state governmentfails to do its job, it falls on the shoulders of local government, which is not equipped to deal with the issues, either financially or in dedicating personnel,” said Martin. He added, “I’ve been in this business for over 40 years, and every time I hear the term ‘senseless tragedy’ or ‘terrible accident,’ I cringe. When our federal and state laws are not enforced, all we really have is predicable consequences.”

Despite these incidents, Chris Burbank, Director of Law Enforcement Engagement at the Center for Policing Equity, testified that research conducted over the past thirty years has consistently shown that immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or to be incarcerated, and that violent and property crime has decreased as undocumented immigration has increased over the past ten years.

“Public policy must be driven by evidence and not anecdotes,” said Burbank, who sees no correlation between immigrants and crime.

ICE Director Sarah Saldana sees ICE’s recent criminal release statistics as a demonstration of the agency’s commitment to ensuring that individuals who pose a threat to public safety are not released from ICE’s custody. Saldana cited a 15 percent reduction in criminal releases from 2013 to 2014, and a 30 percent reduction from 2014 to 2015.

“Apprehending and removing individuals who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety is DHS’s highest immigration enforcement priority,” said Saldana.

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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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