Nearly 1 million immigrants have been ordered deported but still roam free in the U.S., including nearly 180,000 who have been convicted of crimes here, the Homeland Security Department said in information released Friday by the Senate immigration subcommittee.
The release came the same day that two top lawmakers, the chairman of the House and Senate judiciary committees, demanded answers on how a man who’d been deported twice before snuck back into the U.S. and, according to a criminal complaint, then kidnapped and raped his estranged girlfriend.
The level of criminal behavior by immigrants — both legal and illegal — has become a key part of the current political debate over immigration, border fencing and birthright citizenship.
But the federal government does not have any way of tracking the overall criminal behavior of immigrants, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains and deports illegal immigrants, admitted in the information provided to the Senate.
“ICE is unable to statistically report on the number of aliens who have been arrested for criminal offenses,” the agency said.
ICE did, however, say it is making headway on trying to get sanctuary cities to cooperate with its new slimmed-down deportation program, known as the Priority Enforcement Program, or PEP.
Of 340 jurisdictions identified as sanctuary cities or counties, ICE says more than half have expressed interest in cooperating with the PEP.
What that means, exactly, is still unclear, because some jurisdictions have said they will only partially comply — yet are included on the government’s list of cooperators.
All told, there are 918,369 immigrants living in the U.S. who have been ordered deported. Some of them are here under special court rulings or administration decisions that prevent them from being sent back to specific countries, while others just aren’t deemed serious enough criminals by the Obama administration to worry about.
Of the total, 179,027 have criminal convictions.