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, 16 percent of the nearly 47,000 illegal immigrants the administration was notified of but declined to deport between 2008 and 2011 under its Secure Communities program have gone on to be charged with other crimes, the committee said.
They were part of the nearly 160,000 immigrants — most of them here legally — who were flagged by Secure Communities during the three-year period and who were later charged in nearly 60,000 more crimes, according to the committee and the Congressional Research Service, which looked at data the committee subpoenaed from the Homeland Security Department.
The Secure Communities program was designed to identify immigrants who end up in state and local prisons and jails who the administration decides it wants to deport.
While hundreds of thousands of aliens 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.
But nearly a quarter could have been deported and weren’t, CRS said. They 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,” said committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican. “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.”
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 toward those who already have criminal records or who have repeatedly broken immigration laws.
In June, Mr. 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.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, ranking Democrat on Judiciary’s immigration subcommittee, said Republicans are trying to have it both ways — criticizing the president for focusing on deporting criminals, while now blaming him for crimes committed by those still here.
“It’s ironic that in attempting to attack President Obama, House Republicans are laying out support for his administration’s efforts to focus enforcement on those who would do us harm,” the congresswoman said.