Immigration and Customs Enforcement was the subject of a House hearing Thursday, where it was revealed that the agency has failed to deport thousands of illegal immigrants even after they were convicted of crimes in the United States. According to information released during the hearing, ICE released nearly 20,000 criminal illegal immigrants in 2015 and more than 86,000 in a three-year period beginning in 2013.
During the hearing, it was revealed that the nearly 20,000 illegal immigrants released by ICE in 2015 were responsible for committing a total of 64,000 violent and non-violent offenses. Some 12,307 of those convictions were for drunk driving, but there were also more than 1,700 assault convictions, 614 sex offenses, and 216 kidnappings.
The 20,000 illegal immigrants that ICE released in 2015 also notched more than 200 manslaughter and homicide convictions between them.
“These are not just numbers. These are individuals in this country illegally who were arrested, prosecuted and convicted. But instead of removing these criminals, ICE put them back on American streets,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said at the hearing.
A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies shows a full breakdown of the data that ICE provided to Congress this week. The report states that during 2015, “ICE freed 19,723 criminal aliens, who had a total of 64,197 convictions among them,” all of whom were deportable illegal immigrants.
Fox News reports that ICE Director Sarah Saldana defended the agency, saying that the numbers released to Congress had been politically manipulated and actually represented an improvement over previous years.
“I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to hear a very important issue being bandied about as a political football. I would ask we focus on solutions rather than political banter.”
In a three-year period ending in 2015, ICE was responsible for releasing over 86,000 illegal immigrants that had been convicted of crimes in the United States. More than 36,000 were released in 2013, according to Chairman Chaffetz, and a further 30,000 were released in 2014, so the numbers do appear to trend downward.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, that trend only tells part of the story. While ICE released fewer illegal immigrants in 2015 than in previous years, the total number of arrests was also lower in 2015. The overall rate of release for criminally-convicted illegal immigrants was actually about the same.
Some sources of illegal migrants, such as Mexico, have also seen more of their nationals leave the United States than enter in recent years.
“All told, they had more than 231,000 crimes that they were convicted of, 86,000 of these people,” Chairman Chaffetz said at the hearing. “In 2015, 196 of these people were convicted of homicide, and ICE released them back into the public rather than deporting them.”
Fox News reports that part of the blame falls on the countries of origin of the criminally-convicted illegal immigrants. In some cases, illegal immigrants were actually put back on the streets after their countries of origin refused to take them back.
Representative Carolyn Maloney brought up the case of Haitian national Jean Jacques at the hearing on Thursday. According to Maloney, Jacques was convicted of attempted murder and should have been deported. However, Haiti refused to take him back, and ICE released him.
Jacques later went on to murder Connecticut resident Casey Chadwick in June 2015.
“This is such an injustice,” Maloney said at the hearing. “That they will not abide by their treaty… that they won’t take their felon back.”
Saldana claimed that ICE’s hands have been tied and that the agency only releases criminal illegal immigrants after “careful analysis.”
“To sit there and say that the proud women and men of law enforcement and ICE are choosing to release criminals is absolutely unforgiveable,” Saldana said at the hearing. “They do not go around trying to put criminals on the streets.”
Are you worried about ICE releasing so many criminally-convicted illegal immigrants each year, and what do you think should be done about it?
[Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]