More than 100 illegal immigrants caught but released by the Obama administration over the last five years have gone on to be charged with murders after they were set free, according to a new report released Monday from the Center for Immigration Studies.
In all, some 121 immigrants who were freed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement between 2010 and 2014 have since been charged with a total of 135 homicide-related crimes. Another three immigrants were charged with murders in 2015, bringing to 124 the total number of murder suspects the government had, then released.
Two of the immigrants in question had even been convicted of homicide before, but they were released anyway and went on to rack up new murder charges again, the report said. The others had amassed 464 total criminal charges, ranging from drugs to drunken driving, before they landed on the homicide list.
The information was released to Congress by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies analyzed the data and said it shows dangerous practices.
“The names of the criminal aliens were redacted by the Judiciary Committee, but the list presumably includes murderers like Apolinar Altamirano, an illegal alien who was arrested by ICE in 2013 following his conviction on local charges involving a burglary and abduction, but who was released on a $10,000 bond and permitted to remain free and elect to have deportation proceedings that would take years to complete. In January 2015 Altamirano shot and killed 21-year-old Grant Ronnebeck while he was working at a convenience store where Altamirano had come to buy cigarettes,” Ms. Vaughan wrote.
ICE’s decision-making has come under fire in recent years after the agency acknowledged it regularly released tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who would go on to be charged with other serious crimes.
Just as troubling are the number of repeat-offenders whom ICE arrests and releases more than once. More than 156 immigrants with criminal records were released at least twice by ICE. Those immigrants averaged more than 11 charges per person.
“These criminal aliens racked up a total of 243 additional convictions after being freed by ICE. The largest number (24) were for drunk or drugged driving, but they also included drug offenses, burglary, theft and larceny, and sex offenses,” Ms. Vaughan wrote.
ICE has said in the past that it has to release many illegal immigrants because their home countries won’t take then back, and under a court decision they can’t hold them indefinitely. But Ms. Vaughan said 73 of the 156 repeat-offender releases were by ICE’s own discretion.
ICE provided a list of recalcitrant countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Gambia, Shana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
Last week, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson demanding answers on an illegal immigrant whom ICE agents failed to detain last month, despite facing charges of vehicular homicide.
Police say Eswin Mejia crashed into the car of Sarah Root, 21, and had a blood-alcohol content more than three times the legal limit at the time. He posted bond on the state charge and has since absconded.
“State authorities claimed they contacted ICE numerous times to notify the agency of Mejia’s elevated flight risk and request that ICE take custody of him, but ICE denied the request,” Mr. Grassley wrote in the March 9 letter.