- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

Virginians got a reminder last week of how the federal government’s turn-‘em-loose illegal-immigration policies work. Last Sunday, a Fairfax County police officer in Annandale stopped a Dodge van after it made an illegal U-turn. The officer discovered 11 Mexican nationals inside, all of them illegals. County police handed the illegals over to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Shortly after processing the illegals, however, ICE released them into the general public on a promise. The promise was to show up Thursday at ICE’s Northern Virginia offices for immigration proceedings.

But the illegals failed to attend. This was business as usual at ICE, where “catch and release” followed by proceedings evasion is the routine.

There are 1 million people facing immigration proceedings who have been released into the general population, according to Victor X. Cerda, the acting director of detention and removal operations for the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Of these people, 465,000 are fugitive aliens who have been ordered deported. Most disturbingly, 80,000 of these cases involve aliens who committed crimes besides their immigration violations. According to Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Cohn, murderers, rapists and child molesters are among those 80,000.

ICE spokesmen typically portray all of this as a consequence of hard tradeoffs, as the agency did speaking of the Annandale illegals. “In this case, none of these aliens were criminals or threats to national security,” ICE’s Manny Van Pelt told The Washington Times. “We’re committed to enforcing immigration law, but do we go after terrorists or gangs … or do we go after day laborers? It’s a challenge that requires balancing and prioritizing.” Lack of detention facilities and databases that aren’t fully updated are other oft-cited reasons.

But if 80,000 criminal aliens pass through ICE’s hands every year, that explanation can only work so many times. There are many instances where a subject poses a clear danger to the United States but still gets a pass. There must be still more cases where ICE can’t reasonably know whether the subject poses a threat.

The fault lies less with ICE, of course, than with President Bush and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who refuse to take a serious approach to illegal immigration.

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