The Obama administration released illegal immigrants who went on to commit more crimes, including charges of 19 murders, 3 attempted murders and 142 sex crimes, the House Judiciary Committee said in a report Tuesday.
All told, the nearly 47,000 illegal immigrants the administration was notified of but declined to deport between 2008 and 2011 under its Secure Communities program had a recidivism rate of 16 percent, the committee said.
They were just part of the nearly 160,000 immigrants — most of them here legally — who were flagged by Secure Communities during the three year period but who were either not eligible to be deported or who the administration decided to release. Those immigrants went on to be charged in nearly 60,000 more crimes, according to the committee and the Congressional Research Service, which issued a report on the matter.
The findings stem from the Obama administration’s Secure Communities program, which was designed to identify immigrants who run afoul of the law and who the administration decides it wants to deport.
While hundreds of thousands have been sent back home under the program, 159,286 were not put in deportation proceedings during the period under review, CRS said.
About three quarters of those weren’t eligible for deportation because they were legal immigrants and their criminal records didn’t rise to the level of deportation, though nearly a quarter could have been deported, CRS said.
Those who could have been deported but were released later went on to commit the 19 murders, 3 attempted murders and 142 sex crimes, the Judiciary Committee said.
“The Obama administration could have prevented these senseless crimes by enforcing our immigration laws,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith said. “But President Obama continues to further his anti-enforcement agenda while innocent Americans suffer the consequences. His unwillingness to enforce immigration laws puts our communities at risk and costs American lives.”
Mr. Smith requested the CRS report, which used data he had subpoenaed from the Homeland Security Department.
Secure Communities was designed to let federal officials check the immigration records of those booked into local prisons and jails to see if they can be deported.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for deportations, said many of those identified by Secure Communities and detailed in the report either weren’t eligible to be deported or were released by local officials before ICE could respond.
Spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said that given limited resources, they have to pick and choose which aliens they go after.
“Because ICE is congressionally funded to remove a limited number of individuals each year, the agency prioritizes our enforcement efforts on individuals whose removal has the biggest impact on public safety, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders,” she said.
The Obama administration has set records for deportations, removing about 400,000 aliens a year. But it has dramatically altered the composition of those being deported, shifting attention away from rank-and-file illegal immigrants and towards those who already have criminal records or who have repeatedly broken immigration laws.
In June President Obama announced yet another policy that shields most illegal immigrants age 30 and under from deportation. That policy won’t fully take effect until the middle of August, but it has already had an effect on those being deported.
Between Oct. 1 and June 16, a day after the new policy was announced, 51 percent of those ICE deported had criminal records. But in the month after the policy was announced, the percentage of criminals being deported jumped to 57 percent — a record high rate.
Secure Communities has come under fire from both sides of the aisle.
Many Democrats say it casts its net too wide, which means illegal immigrants who have committed relatively minor offenses could be deported. But Republicans, led by Mr. Smith, say the administration is actually being too picky in those it chooses to deport, which results in criminals being released back onto the streets to commit more crimes.
In one of the cases, the committee said, an illegal immigrant named Evin Adonis Ortiz was identified by Secure Communities but released, and later went on to be charged in the killing of California man. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, police said Ortiz and two others robbed a 68-year-old grandfather and then killed his grandson when he tried to chase the bandits down.