Why ICE Released — and Didn’t Deport — Over 1,000 Illegal Immigrants Convicted of Murder and Sex Crimes

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released rather than deported 19,723 criminal illegal immigrants in 2015.

This included 208 convicted of murder and more than 900 convicted of sex crimes. The bulk of offenders, more than 12,000, were convicted on drunk driving charges, according to data from the Center for Immigration Studies discussed at a congressional hearing Thursday.

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
A U.S. Border Patrol canine team stands nearby after they helped detain a group of illegal aliens near the U.S.-Mexico border near Mission, Texas. (Getty Images)

The convictions totaled 64,197 — 8,234 of which were violent crimes — among the illegals ICE released into nearly every state and territory of the United States, an average of 3.25 convictions each, the Washington Examiner reported.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee heard from experts and government officials on the matter Thursday.

“These are people that were here illegally, got caught committing a crime, were convicted of that crime, and then instead of deporting them, they were just released back out into the United States of America,” Oversight chairman Jason Chaffettz said. “Their convictions included sex offenses, assault, burglary, robbery, driving under the influence—and ICE told us that in FY2015, the agency released 19,723 criminal aliens, with a combined 64,197 convictions, including 934 sex offenses, 804 robberies, 216 kidnappings, and 196 homicide-related convictions.”

Chaffettz called this “unacceptable” and “infuriating.”

ICE Director Sarah Saldana explained that more than half were ordered freed by the courts. In more than 2,100 cases, the home country didn’t want them back. An ICE spokesperson deferred to the director’ testimony at the House hearing, where Saldena said:

“As you are aware, in fiscal year 2013, ICE had 36,007 criminal releases, while in FY 2014, that number had fallen to 30,558 criminal releases—that is, a 15 percent reduction from the previous year in the number of criminal aliens released from custody pending removal proceedings,” Saldana told the committee. “In FY 2015, the number of criminal releases fell even further to 19,723, a 30 percent decrease from FY 2014. Notably, while almost two-thirds of the criminal releases in FY 2013 and FY 2014 were due to ICE discretionary determinations authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and its implementing regulations, in FY 2015, that trend had reversed such that nearly two-thirds of the criminal releases that year were legally required rather than the result of ICE’s exercise of discretion.”

The director added, “Additionally, federal courts have limited our detention authority, both in individual cases and for entire categories of aliens.”

In 2014, the number of criminal illegal immigrants released was about 30,000. The reason for the decline is because of a decline in arrests, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

“In 2015, ICE made 119,772 arrests, or just half the number of arrests made in 2013, 232,287,” CIS Director of Policy Studies, Jessica M. Vaughan said in the analysis.

The analysis says that under President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, criminal immigrants are being ignored even after local enforcement called for ICE to conduct more deportations.