This information was made available on March 31 by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that collected the information from ICE’s “Weekly Departures and Detention Report” for the end of fiscal year 2013. The CIS obtained a copy of the report through a lawsuit.
CIS released it findings in a document written by former State Department foreign service officer Jessica Vaughan titled, “Catch and Release: Interior Immigration enforcement in 2013.”
The ICE document showed that its agents encountered 193,357 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions last year, but issued charging documents for only 125,478. As noted above, 67,879 charged and/or convicted criminals were released.
“ICE released 68,000 criminal aliens in 2013, or 35 percent of the criminal aliens encountered by officers. The vast majority of these releases occurred because of the Obama administration’s prosecutorial discretion policies,” Vaughan wrote in a memo that drew from the ICE document. She noted that ICE classifies illegal immigrants as criminal if they have been convicted of a crime, excluding traffic offenses.
Vaughan noted further: “The Obama administration’s deliberate obstruction of immigration enforcement, in which tens of thousands of criminal aliens are released instead of removed, is threatening the well-being of American communities.”
Fox News reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement accused CIS of distorting the numbers, claiming that some of the convictions might represent minor offenses. The agency also took credit for deporting a total of 216,000 “convicted criminals” in 2013.
“ICE is focused on the removal of criminal aliens,” Fox quoted an ICE spokeswoman. “The percentage of criminals removed continues to rise. Nearly 60 percent of ICE's total removals had been previously convicted of a criminal offense, and that number rises to 82 percent for individuals removed from the interior of the U.S. The removal of criminal individuals is and will remain ICE's highest priority.”
Fox also reported that earlier this month, a DHS spokesman said the internal review of immigration enforcement is a process that is “ongoing” and will be done “expeditiously.”
“Since taking office, [Jeh Johnson] the secretary [of Homeland Security] has made clear that he shares the president’s commitment of enforcing our immigration laws effectively and sensibly, in line with our values,” the spokesman said. “As part of that effort he has been taking a hard look at these tough issues, meeting with a range of stakeholders and employees and already has been assessing if there are areas where we can further align our enforcement policies with our goal of sound law enforcement practice that prioritizes public safety.”
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