A U.S. Border Patrol canine team stands nearby after they helped detain a group of undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11, 2013 near Mission, Texas. A group of 16 immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador said they crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico into Texas during the morning hours before they were caught. The Rio Grande Valley sector of the border has had more than a 50 percent increase in illegal immigrant crossings from last year, according to the Border Patrol. Agents say they have also seen an additional surge in immigrant traffic since immigration reform negotiations began this year in Washington D.C. Proposed refoms could provide a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States. Credit: Getty Images
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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 68,000 criminal aliens back into the United States and failed to remove 870,000 illegal aliens with mandatory deportation orders in 2013, a new report into the catch-and-release policy of the Obama administration revealed.
The report, released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found that while the Obama administration has deported some violent criminals, it only targeted 195,000 — just 25 percent of 722,000 potentially deportable aliens encountered by ICE officers.
Report author Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, calculated the findings based on ICE's own documents and numbers. Vaughan told TheBlaze the majority of deportations of criminal aliens came to ICE's attention after they were incarcerated for a local arrest. She said the official numbers are based on interior enforcement and don't include U.S. border statistics, which fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. Customs and Border Protection jurisdiction, and would make the numbers much higher.
"I think it's important for the public to understand that ICE is able to identify more criminal aliens than ever before and yet they're not allowed to uphold their sworn oath to uphold the laws because of the policies put in place by this administration to deliberately suppress immigration law enforcement," Vaughan, a former foreign service officer with the State Department, told TheBlaze. "The result is that not only are illegal immigrants not being detoured from settling here but once they get here, even if they have shown that they're a threat to the public by committing crimes [the administration] ignores it and they are sent back into our communities."
ICE officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
One case highlighted by Vaughan referred to Amado Espinoza-Ramirez, an illegal alien living in Chicago who was charged with 42 counts of predatory sexual acts on children in 2012 yet was released from ICE's custody shortly thereafter. Espinoza was mandated to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet yet somehow removed the device, disappeared and failed to show up at his hearing, the Daily Caller reported. ICE said the decision to release Espinoza-Ramirez from custody "was made based on the fact that he had no prior criminal convictions, no prior immigration violations, and is the parent of a U.S. citizen child."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, (R-Ala.), told TheBlaze in a statement Sunday night that the evidence in Vaughan's study "demonstrates that immigration enforcement in America has collapsed. Even those with criminal convictions are being released."
[sharequote align="center"]"DHS is a department in crisis."[/sharequote]
"DHS is a department in crisis," said Sessions, referring to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE. "Secretary [Jeh] Johnson must reject the president’s demands to weaken enforcement further and tell him that his duty, and his officers’ duty, is to enforce the law – not break it. As Homeland Secretary secretary, Mr. Johnson is tasked with ensuring the public safety and the rule of law. But Secretary Johnson is not meeting these duties."
Since last year, the Obama administration, along with many senior Republican leaders, have argued for the necessity of a comprehensive immigration reform package, arguing that the current state of U.S. immigration policy, lack of border security and the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens living in the shadows need to be reformed by bipartisan bills that everyone can agree on.
In 2012, the administration deported 409,849 illegal immigrants and 396,906 in 2011. In 2013, ICE deported a total of 368,644 illegals, of which 133,551 were in the interior of the country and the other 235,093 were at the border attempting to enter the United States, according to ICE official statistics.
Vaughan's report states that "even as ICE moved to deport roughly 200,000 aliens from the interior in 2013, ICE booked more than 400,000 aliens into custody (detention). The difference between the two figures reflects the number of Border Patrol and other agency cases that are referred to ICE custody for processing. These cases show up in ICE’s metrics as a departure and in Border Patrol or CBP metrics as an apprehension."
The Obama administration has implemented policies that have prevented some undocumented immigrants from being deported, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. That's granted reprieve to nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants, so-called "Dreamers." There is also ICE's ability to use prosecutorial discretion policies, which gives officers the authority to influence a deportation case based on the significance of the crime.
"Interior enforcement activity has already declined 40 percent since the imposition of 'prosecutorial discretion' policies in 2011. Rather than accelerating this decline, there is an urgent need to review and reverse the public safety and fiscal harm cause by the president’s policies," the report states.
Numerous DHS officials, ICE officers and Border Patrol agents interviewed by TheBlaze over the past year have said they do not support any new comprehensive immigration policy proposals because the current immigration enforcement laws are not being adhered to by the administration.
"Basically they use the numbers in such a way that it seems as though more are being deported than actually are and the numbers don't actually reflect the enormous problems and lack of security along the southwest border," a Border Patrol official working along the Texas border who is not allowed to speak publicly on the matter told TheBlaze. "It's nothing but theater — nobody is enforcing the law. Instead, our failure to do what is asked of us makes us accomplices — allowing illegal criminals to remain in the country and we can't do anything to stop it."
An ICE official who works interior enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border told TheBlaze: "If you're criminal illegal alien, the United States is a very lucrative hunting ground — you won't face the same kind of prosecution as an American citizen and unfortunately we can't do anything about it — Congress knows this is going on, so why don't they hold a hearing to stop it."
Sessions said that the administration's policies have "stripped" protections from the American people.
Americans have the "legal and moral right to the protections our immigration laws afford – at the border, the interior and the workplace," he said.
"Comments from top administration officials, such as Attorney General [Eric] Holder’s claim that amnesty is a civil right, or Vice President [Joe] Biden’s claim that those here illegally are all U.S. citizens, apparently including someone whose visa expired yesterday, demonstrates the administration’s increasing belief in an open borders policy the American public has always rejected."
Follow Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) on Twitter
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