Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Criminal aliens set free on the streets of America — instead of being deported after serving their time — are being rearrested as many as six more times by U.S. authorities, according to a government audit released yesterday.

But the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said it did not know how many of 262,105 illegals in the audit, who had been charged with a crime and then released, had been rearrested.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that the volume of available files “was too great to search manually and quantify the results” and that investigators instead selected a sample of 100 illegal aliens arrested in 2004 and reviewed their criminal histories for evidence of rearrests.

Mr. Fine noted that although the limited audit did not find any instances of “outright failure” to cooperate with Homeland Security in the removal of criminal aliens from the United States, a review of the 100 criminal histories “produced results that, if indicative of the full population of criminal aliens identified, suggest that the rate at which released criminal aliens are re-arrested is extremely high.”

The 91-page audit, which was requested by Congress, said the limited sampling found that of the 100 selected aliens, 73 had an average of six arrests each after being released from custody. They were arrested, collectively, 429 times on 878 charges, ranging from traffic violations and trespassing to drug crimes, burglary, robbery, assault and weapons violations.

The audit found that local jurisdictions “prioritize enforcement of state and local laws, while sometimes permitting or encouraging law-enforcement officers” to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Last year, Congress required an annual audit as part of the Justice Department’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which provides federal funding to states and localities for the costs of incarcerating criminal aliens on state or local charges. The program is administered by the Justice Department in conjunction with ICE, which is part of Homeland Security.

During fiscal 2005, Justice distributed $287.1 million in SCAAP payments to 752 state, county and local jurisdictions — nearly 70 percent of which went to 10 jurisdictions: the states of California, New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Massachusetts; New York City; and two California counties, Los Angeles and Orange.

The report also said investigators identified an official “sanctuary” policy for two jurisdictions that received at least $1 million in SCAAP funding: Oregon, which received $3.4 million, and the city and county of San Francisco, which received $1.1 million and has designated itself a “city and county of refuge.”

In addition, an executive order issued in New York City limits the enforcement of immigration law by local authorities, the report said.

The audit defined “sanctuary” as a jurisdiction that may have state laws, local ordinances or departmental policies limiting the role of local authorities in the enforcement of immigration laws.

The audit also examined the level of cooperation among federal, state and local authorities, but found “conflicting views between ICE and local jurisdictions as to what actions constitute full cooperation.”

“Congress did not define ‘fully cooperate,’ nor did our review of immigration legislation disclose any specific steps that localities are required to take to help effect the removal of criminal aliens from the United States,” the audit said.

The report also found that among 164 state and local agencies surveyed:

• 30 jurisdictions do not generally ask those arrested about their immigration status.

• 17 said they do not inform ICE when they have someone they suspect may be an illegal alien in custody. Some agencies said they do not inform ICE about possible illegals in custody because they don’t think ICE will respond.

• 18 jurisdictions do not alert ICE before releasing undocumented criminal aliens.

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