A bombshell report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is difficult to construe as anything other than the Obama administration’s contempt for the rule of law. An internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document obtained by CIS reveals that in 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released from detention 36,007 convicted criminal aliens awaiting the outcome of their deportation proceedings — including 193 individuals convicted of murder, 426 convicted of sexual assault, 1,075 convicted of aggravated assault, and 303 convicted of kidnapping.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) put this utter abdication of responsibility in the proper context. “This would be considered the worst prison break in American history, except it was sanctioned by the president and perpetrated by our own immigration officials,” he declared. “The administration’s actions are outrageous. They willfully and knowingly put the interests of criminal immigrants before the safety and security of the American people.”
CIS makes it clear that this report is different than the report it released in March entitled “Catch and Release.” That one revealed that ICE declined to bring immigration charges against 68,000 criminal aliens they encountered in FY 2013, due in large part to what CIS characterized as the administration’s sweeping “prosecutorial discretion” guidelines. That report led to congressional inquiries, prompting ICE to release an enumeration of FY 2013 criminal aliens freed, and the criminal convictions tied to these individuals. Smith was one of the lawmakers who had pressed DHS for the detailed breakdown.
CIS explains the distinction between the two different reports:
“It is important to recognize 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.”
ICE released a statement saying many of the convicted aliens they released were subject to being tracked, but as CIS further reveals, ICE is still stonewalling to a certain extent. The agency fails to specify which category of release applied to the number or type criminal aliens involved. Those categories include bond, an unsupervised order of recognizance, an order of supervision that could be as lax as the requirement to make a phone call to a designated ICE phone number, monitoring, using an ankle bracelet or some other tracking device, and parole.
What ICE didn’t say, but was nonetheless contained in “separate information” obtained by CIS, is that many of these releases were “discretionary” or “even contrary” to the requirements contained in a number of provisions written into the Immigration and Nationality Act. CIS further notes that less than 3,000 criminal aliens were released due to the 2001 Supreme Court decision, Zadvydas v. Davis that prevents ICE from holding certain aliens indefinitely when countries they come from refuse to take them back. An even smaller number of releases were attributable to parole or legal status obtained by cooperating with ICE or another law enforcement agency with regard to a “criminal prosecution,” or another “compelling public interest.”
In their statement, ICE attempted to claim otherwise. “The releases required by court decisions account for a disproportionate number of the serious crimes listed in the report. For example, mandatory releases account for over 75% of the homicides listed,” it stated. “Others, typically those with less serious offenses, 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.”
Such weasel words don’t cut it. If 75 percent of the convicted murderers had to be released, that still leaves 48 convicted murderers who didn’t. Furthermore, the notion that “less serious offenses” allowing for “discretionary release” by “career law enforcement officers” can still amount to releasing individuals convicted of sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated assault, dangerous drug possession, drunken or drugged driving, stealing vehicles and flight escape, is nothing short of chilling.
CIS policy studies director Jessica Vaughan focused on the hypocrisy of the Obama administration. “We keep hearing from the administration that they are focused like a laser on enforcement against the worst of the worst, convicted criminals, as their top priority,” she said. “On the other hand, they are releasing, at a rate of about 100 a day, aliens from their custody with criminal convictions, and many of them are serious criminal convictions.”
As for “ICE’s resources,” the agency was more than willing to pour gasoline on an already raging inferno regarding that issue as well. Telling Congress that they don’t need to hold as many detainees as they used to, they have asked lawmakers to fund approximately 3,500 fewer detention beds this year than last, reducing the number from 34,000 to around 30,500. “This funding level of beds will allow ICE to detain the current mandatory population, as well as the higher-risk, non-mandatory detainees,” ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale testified in March.
That’s quite a change from last year when ICE initially blamed the release of thousands of illegals on a lack of resources caused by the sequester. As the Washington Times reveals, ICE officials eventually backed off that claim, contending the regular budget process caused the releases—releases that included 622 criminals, including 24 with repeated felony convictions so serious, ICE was forced to recapture them.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Senate Budget Committee’s ranking member, has been sounding the alarm on the Obama administration’s dangerous illegal immigration free-for-all policies for several years. In March, Sessions released “Critical Alert,” a report revealing that 98 percent of the illegals being deported were either criminals, caught crossing the border illegally, or had been previously deported. Sessions contended this reality was due to three executive actions undertaken by President Obama that amounted to “a dramatic nullification of federal law” that allowed the vast majority of the 12 million illegal aliens in the country “to illegally live, work and claim benefits here as long as they are not caught committing a felony or other serious crime.”
Two months later, Americans now know that felonies or other serious crimes aren’t necessarily deportable offenses either. Or even multiple convictions: CIS noted that the 36,007 individuals released by ICE accounted for 87,818 convictions.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has called on DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to appear before the Committee and explain this egregious state of affairs. He also issued a joint statement with Lamar Smith hammering DHS for stonewalling. “Over a month ago, the House Judiciary Committee requested that DHS provide information about criminal aliens identified by federal authorities and released into our communities but our questions have gone unanswered,” it stated. “This information is important to inform Congress about the problem of criminal aliens so that we make the right policy decisions moving forward. The Committee plans to hold an oversight hearing on DHS in the coming weeks and will expect Secretary Johnson to come clean and provide the Committee with answers to our questions.”
Those answers should be fascinating. As CIS notes, Johnson is “on the verge of announcing the results of a review of deportation policies, ordered by the president in response to immigrant advocacy group protests.” Johnson has already indicated that anything resembling stricter deportation policies, or even maintaining the disturbingly lax status quo is not in the cards. In February, he announced the DHS was preparing to implement reform legislation. “When reform legislation is enacted, DHS must be prepared to implement reform. So to prepare for this potential outcome, I have already directed the deputy director of homeland security to coordinate the process to ensure we are ready to implement the law,” Johnson said. A month earlier, he also advocated a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, insisting they have “earned the right to be citizens.”
Undoubtedly, Johnson, the DHS and ICE are taking their cues from President Obama. And once again, the American public is being forced to endure the substitution of a political agenda—one with potentially deadly consequences–for the rule of law. Yet the notion that even a single criminal alien, much less thousands, have been freed to roam the streets of American is beyond the pale. The nation is rapidly approaching a level of institutional lawlessness in which government can no longer protect us from criminal enterprise for the simplest and most disturbing reason: it is endorsing that criminal enterprise.
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