The new records, including spreadsheets and hundreds of pages of e-mails, offer the most detailed information yet about the people ICE freed as it prepared for steep, across-the-government spending cuts in February 2013. They show that although two-thirds of the people who were freed had no criminal records, several had been arrested or convicted on charges more severe than the administration had disclosed…
A spreadsheet ICE officials prepared listing the detainees includes one person in Texas charged with aggravated kidnapping and sexually assaulting a child, as well as others charged with armed assaults or assaulting police officers. Another immigrant released from Miami had been charged with conspiracy to commit homicide. Two detainees from Boston had been charged with aggravated assault using a weapon. One in Denver had a sexual assault charge. The agency released the spreadsheet to USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act…
[ICE Director John] Morton, who resigned last year, told Congress [in 2013] that the more than 2,200 immigrants ICE released included 629 people with criminal records, all of them people who had been charged with misdemeanors “or other criminals whose prior conviction did not pose a violent threat to public safety.”
I remember this episode well. Team Hopenchange, as is their habit, decided that the GOP’s efforts to shrink government required that the entire American public be punished, not unlike how a drill sergeant will make the entire platoon do push-ups to turn them against one soldier who’s broken the rules. They did the same thing during the shutdown when they decided that national parks and memorials had to be gated off and closed even though it would have cost nothing to let the public use them. Republicans had succeeded in getting sequestration passed; now DHS was going to make sure they suffered for it politically by releasing a few thousand illegals and blaming it on budget cuts.
So eager was the administration to do this that they started letting illegals go before the sequestration cuts actually took effect (a “highly unusual move,” as the NYT described it at the time). But there was a catch: While DHS was happy to let illegals go, they didn’t want it to be known that some of those illegals were potentially dangerous. The public might buy the fact that Republicans had forced the White House’s hand in releasing some illegals, but it would be hard to blame the GOP if some of the individual illegals selected for release were possible threats to Americans. So that part, naturally, was kept quiet.
Well, sort of. Here’s a choice passage from an NYT story in February 2013:
Among those released in the past week was Anthony Orlando Williams, 52, a Jamaican immigrant who spent nearly three years in a detention center in Georgia. “I’m good, man,” he said. “I’m free.”
Mr. Williams, in a telephone interview from Stone Mountain, Ga., said he became an illegal immigrant when he overstayed a visa in 1991. He was detained in 2010 by a sheriff’s deputy in Gwinnett County, Ga., when it was discovered that he had violated probation for a conviction in 2005 of simple assault, simple battery and child abuse, charges that sprung from a domestic dispute with his wife at the time. He was transferred to ICE custody and has been fighting a deportation order with the help of Families for Freedom, an immigrant support group in New York.
How did guys like Williams and an unknown number of other illegals facing serious charges (or with actual criminal records) end up being sprung? DHS told USA Today that the figure Morton provided to Congress last year — 629 people with records freed — didn’t include 144 who were released due to “special issues,” e.g., the fact that the agency probably wouldn’t have been able to deport them within six months, as the Supreme Court requires. Supposedly DHS forgot to mention those because they were scrambling to cope with sequestration and, well, some details were overlooked. Anyone believe that? They had a precise figure on non-dangerous illegals released, but 100+ “special issues” cases involving some dangerous felons somehow fell through the cracks of Morton’s testimony?
The best argument you can make that this is a sincere screw-up rather than a cover-up is that the White House might have concluded that Republicans, not Obama, would bear the brunt of public anger if people knew that dangerous illegals were released, in which case why not publicize that fact to hurt the GOP? But that would have been risky, not only because it’d be hard to explain how Republicans are at fault for a Democratic president’s administrative decisions but because it might have galvanized the GOP to float a new bill extending detention times for illegals in “special issues” circumstances. And that would have put O on the spot since it would have forced him to either oppose the bill, annoying the public, or support it, annoying his base. So the “special issues” cases simply weren’t mentioned. Surprise.