Four Republicans sent a letter Monday to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting specific information regarding the criminal aliens Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced earlier this month 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 Removal Operations (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 this operation, 476 were illegal re-entrants who had been previously removed from the country. 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.
The illegal alien round-up, dubbed “Cross Check,” began Sunday, March 1, and ended Thursday, March 5. Hundreds of ERO officers participated in the operation that focused on the arrests of public safety threats. Those arrested are from 94 countries and have a wide array of criminal convictions, DHS stated.
All the targets of the operation fell within the top two priorities established by Johnson under the department’s new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which was spelled out in his November 20 memorandum, “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.”
According to information provided by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the legislators said, at least 23 of the individuals arrested had previously been granted deferred action under the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In their letter to Johnson, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and The National Interest, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the arrests of “Criminal aliens encountered via Operation Cross Check pose a significant danger to the safety and security of our country, and we commend the efforts of the ERO officers involved in this operation who placed themselves at great risk in pursuing them."
However, they said, “Arresting, detaining and ensuring the removal of these dangerous criminal aliens — individuals ICE has deemed to be of the highest priority for removal — is of great importance to Congress and the American people.”
“Now, your department must ensure their removal from the United States so that they are not again released back into our communities to commit more crimes,” they told Johnbson.
The lawmakers said in their letter that the 23 individuals who’d previously been arrested and “previously been granted deferred action under the President’s DACA program … raises serious concerns about the manner in which USCIS checks the backgrounds of DACA applicants and consults with ICE regarding DACA applicants.”
Continuing, they told Johnson that, “Costly operations to apprehend at-large criminal aliens would not be necessary if state and local jurisdictions would simply cooperate with ICE, whether by honoring ICE detainers, advising ICE before releasing criminal aliens, or allowing ICE access to detention facilities. The need for these operations also would be considerably mitigated if this administration had not ended the successful Secure Communities program, and curtailed the ability of ERO to issue ICE detainers, which is at the core of ICE’s mission to pick up and process removable aliens encountered by law enforcement.”
They further told Johnson that, “Undermining ICE detainers endangers officers, agents and the public. It is far more dangerous for law enforcement to pursue aliens at large, in far less safe and predictable settings, than if they were able to obtain custody of criminal aliens from state or local facilities. Public safety is also greatly compromised when these aliens are released back into the community, where they often commit additional and more heinous crimes.”
“We are committed to protecting the public from reckless ‘sanctuary’ jurisdiction policies,” the lawmakers stated in their letter, noting that, “We are also committed to holding the administration accountable for its failure to defend its own detainer authorities, and intend to use the results of Operation Cross Check VI to demonstrate the importance of preventing the release of dangerous criminal aliens.”
The lawmakers requested DHS provide detailed information about the criminal aliens arrested during Operation Cross Check VI, such as immigration status, the agency or entity responsible for releasing the alien, the number of those who had prior encounters with ICE, the number of those who had obtained relief from removal in immigration court proceedings or by the use of prosecutorial discretion and the number of aliens who are DACA beneficiaries.
“Until your department removes all aliens arrested during Operation Cross Check VI,” the lawmakers said in their letter that DHS must “provide the following information [as described in their letter to Johnson] on a monthly basis.”