U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to release illegal aliens with criminal records at an "alarming pace in 2015," according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).
"As of the end of March, ICE had released another 10,246 criminal aliens," writes CIS' Jessica Vaughan. "This pace of criminal releases is down from 2013 and 2014 - but only because ICE is arresting far fewer people to start with, not because there are fewer to arrest. ICE arrests of criminal aliens are down 32 percent since this time last year, according to ICE records. Arrests of the most serious offenders are down by 22 percent over last year."
Documents provided to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing last month show that ICE released 30,558 convicted criminal illegal aliens in Fiscal Year 2014. Convictions range from homicide, battery, kidnapping, sexual assault and larceny. Nearly 14,000 were convicted of driving under the influence of liquor.
Even though ICE officers encountered some 47,000 aliens labeled a criminal threat in the first six months of this fiscal year, they only took enforcement action against about 19,000, according to Vaughan.
"It's not as if ICE has nowhere to put the criminal aliens that officers encounter (most of whom are referred to the agency after arrest or conviction on local or state charges)," the report says. "ICE is allowing 20 percent of its detention capacity to go unused. Halfway through the fiscal year, the agency was detaining an average of 27,400 per day, in defiance of a congressional mandate to detain 34,000."
Vaughan points to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigative report that talks about a 2001 Supreme Court ruling - Zadvydas vs. Davis - which "generally prohibits ICE from detaining for more than six months people who have been ordered deported, if it's clear they won't be removed in the 'reasonably foreseeable future.'" Criminal aliens' home countries often refuse to take them back, so ICE releases them in to the U.S.
But ICE records show that "only 2,457 (8 percent) of the 30,558 convicted criminal releases in 2014 were Zadvydas cases," Vaughan said. "The majority of convicted criminal releases occurred because of Obama administration policies that require ICE officers to let the offenders go."
Sometimes a judge will allow an immigrant to be released following a bond hearing, but those conditions are set by ICE, and "ICE attorneys say they have been instructed not to vigorously contest an alien's request for release," Vaughan explained.
"Aliens who are released on bond typically are not subject to any form of supervision. Most of them will join the approximately 904,000 aliens who have been ordered removed (often in absentia), but who have not left. Of these, 167,527 are convicted criminals. ICE disclosed to the AJC that there are 27,790 such fugitives in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina alone, 8,647 of whom have criminal convictions."
ICE even rolled out an "Alternatives to Detention" program using GPS-enabled ankle bracelets to track illegal immigrants who are released, and as of April 2014, about half of all aliens in the program were convicted criminals, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
But Vaughan says nonetheless, very few immigrants ICE releases are being found. "Other ICE records show that, despite ICE Director Sarah Saldana's insistence that they are working hard to find them, few are in fact being found," she said. "As of April 2015, ICE had arrested only 11,983 of the 168,000 at-large convicted criminal aliens. The Atlanta field office of ICE had arrested only 993 of the 8,600 at-large fugitives in that area - so they are not making much of a dent in the criminal fugitive population."