ICE criticized for releasing rather than deporting thousands of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing today which was strongly critical of the decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release illegal aliens back into the United States even after they have been convicted of crimes.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a group which argues for tougher border enforcement, released figures yesterday on the number of convicted criminals released by ICE rather than deported to their home country, “In 2015, ICE freed 19,723 criminal aliens, who had a total of 64,197 convictions among them. These included 8,234 violent convictions and 208 homicide convictions.”

Director Sarah Saldana testified on behalf of ICE at the hearing. Fox News reports on her reaction to the figures:

“I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to hear a very important issue being bandied about as a political football,” Saldana said. “I would ask we focus on solutions rather than political banter.”

Saldana described the number of releases in 2015 as an improvement over prior years.

What Saldana did not say was that the number of criminals released by ICE is better in part because ICE arrested only about half the number of people they did two years ago. CIS notes the cost of releasing so many convicted criminals back into the U.S., rather than deporting them, has been “profound.”

The impact on public safety of these releases has been profound. So far, 124 criminal aliens released by ICE have subsequently been charged with homicide. One victim was Grant Ronnebeck, a 21-year-old man who was killed while working at a convenience store in Mesa, Ariz. Ronnebeck’s killer was an illegal alien who was released by ICE in 2013 after conviction for a burglary and kidnapping involving drug dealing.

Stories like that one are why Rep. Chaffetz opened today’s hearing saying, “It’s hard to keep your cool in preparing for this meeting.” He went on to say, “In a three year period, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released more than 86,000 criminal aliens into the American public.”

“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 into the United States of America. All told, they have more than 231,000 crimes that they were convicted of–86,000 of these people. In 2015, 196 of these people were convicted of homicide and ICE released them back into the public rather than deporting them…

“Let me give you some other stats. In 2013, ICE released 36,007 criminal aliens who were here unlawfully and present in the United States. As of September 2014, 5,700 of those individuals went on to commit additional crimes.”

Finally, here’s Rep. Gowdy challenging Director Saldana’s characterization of the proceedings as political banter: