68,000 illegal aliens with criminal records caught and released

Obama policy weak on enforcement

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Immigrant rights activists call that the deportation quota and say Mr. Obama has had to go beyond serious criminals and rank-and-file immigrants to boost his numbers.

However, Ms. Vaughan’s study suggests that ICE doesn’t even go after all of the criminals it encounters. In 2013, ICE agents reported coming across 193,000 immigrants with criminal records — more serious than traffic offenses — yet they tried to deport only 125,000.

She said that in Arizona, ICE agents are even releasing illegal immigrants convicted of identity theft.

“The preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that immigration enforcement in America has collapsed,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who has fought legalization efforts in Congress. “Even those with criminal convictions are being released. DHS is a department in crisis.”

An illegal immigrant’s chances of facing arrest and deportation proceedings often seem to depend on where they are caught.

Agents in the Los Angeles office released 81 percent of the immigrants they encountered. Down the road in San Diego, agents released only 5 percent, according to the report.

Ms. Vaughan said the ICE encounters weren’t random. In each case, there had been either a database hit or a specific lead that showed the immigrant may qualify for deportation — though in many cases, the investigation may have found they were not eligible for removal.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden may have tipped the administration’s hand on expanding the categories of those exempt from deportation. Speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last week, he praised illegal immigrants as exemplary.

“I believe they’re already American citizens,” Mr. Biden said.

Some activists argue that breaking immigration laws and ignoring previous deportations shouldn’t be enough to get kicked out. They received backing last week when John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE, penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times arguing that those folks aren’t public safety threats and should be allowed to stay.

“To be sure, those who repeatedly cross our borders illegally or abscond from the immigration court bear culpability. However, making this population a priority detracts from ICE’s ability to track down and arrest the increasing number of much more serious public safety threats the agency identifies,” he wrote.

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