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Report: ICE Underreported Criminal Convictions of Aliens in FY 2014

Report: ICE Underreported Criminal Convictions of Aliens in FY 2014 Homeland Security TodayThe Supreme Court’s decision to block President Obama’s plan to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants has led to a heated controversy over the effectiveness of pre-existing immigration policies.

Against this backdrop, the House Judiciary Committee recently learned that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) significantly underreported the number of criminal convictions of aliens released by the agency in 2014.

A report provided by ICE to the House Judiciary Committee claimed that 30,558 aliens with a total of 79,059 convictions were released from their custody in fiscal year (FY) 2014. However a separate report released by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a non-profit that advocates changes in US immigration policy, puts the number of total convictions at 92,347.

FAIR’s report was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and revealed a discrepancy of over 13,000. ICE reported this information to the Immigration Reform Law Institute on April 5, 2016, in response to a request for information under the FOIA, calling into question ICE’s transparency in reporting on the release of criminal aliens under the current Administration.

“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,” the House Judiciary Committee said in a statement following the release of the original ICE report.

Aliens released based on the Zadvydas decision totaled 2,457 in 2014, representing only 8 percent of those released and 20 percent of crimes committed, according to the original report. This Supreme Court ruling states that the plenary power doctrine does not empower the United States to detain indefinitely immigrants under order of deportation whom no country will accept.

“ICE officials initially told the House Judiciary Committee that the criminal aliens released in fiscal year 2014 had roughly 79,000 criminal convictions, but they actually had over 92,000 convictions, including additional homicide convictions. There’s no excuse for this large discrepancy,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in a statement on FAIR’s findings.

Goodlatte subsequently sent a letter to Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing his discontent over the significant discrepancy reported.

“Based on the conviction data alone, the criminal conduct of these released aliens is nearly 17 percent higher than reported to the Committee in April 2015,” Goodlatte wrote. “This includes significantly more convictions for homicide-related offenses (17 percent), robberies (22 percent), sexual assaults (27 percent), aggravated assaults (17 percent), domestic violence assaults (11 percent), and driving under the influence (10 percent).”

Goodlatte ended his letter urging Johnson to respond to the following six requests no later than July 1st:

  • Provide the total number of criminal aliens released for each FY.
  • Provide the total number of criminal convictions for these aliens, categorized by FY and offense type, prior to their release by ICE.
  • Provide the total number of criminal arrests for these aliens, categorized by FY and offense type, after their release by ICE.
  • Provide the total number of criminal convictions for these aliens, categorized by FY and offense type, after their release by ICE.
  • Provide the total number of aliens who were released in any of the referenced FYs and who were subsequently re-arrested by ICE. Additionally, state whether each re-arrested alien is currently detained by ICE and, if not, provide an explanation.
  • For any alien who was re-arrested by ICE after the initial release, provide the total number of times the alien was re-arrested by ICE.

Goodlatte and other lawmakers have expressed concerns that the release of criminal aliens by ICE jeopardizes the security of surrounding communities and that ICE knowingly misled Congress and the American public concerning the true extent of their danger.

“The Obama Administration’s record of releasing criminal aliens has gone from bad to worse,” said Goodlatte. “We already know that the Obama Administration’s refusal to detain and remove tens of thousands of criminal aliens poses dangers to American communities and the rule of law, and now we know that the Administration has not been straightforward with Congress about how hazardous its policies truly are.”

ICE officials told Homeland Security Today that data pulled in November 8, 2014 for the 30,558 criminal aliens released from ICE custody in FY 2014 showed that that group had 79,056 convictions at the time the data was gathered, while data pulled on March 23, 2015 reflected92,347 crimes for that same group through the date on which that data was gathered.

While the data covers the same group, it represents two different time periods—the second of which is longer and therefore includes a larger number of criminal convictions for the same group.

"As a part of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is focused on the smart and effective enforcement of our immigration laws," said an ICE spokesperson. "Individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety, or who are arrested crossing the border illegally, are enforcement priorities, and ICE is allocating enforcement resources accordingly, consistent with our laws."

"ICE’s recent criminal release statistics illustrate our commitment to ensuring that individuals who pose a threat to public safety are not released from ICE custody, and demonstrate that our review processes embody and support ICE’s commitment to public safety," the ICE spokesperson added. 

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
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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