Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) this week sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson seeking information on recent media reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encountered and released 68,000 illegal aliens with criminal convictions in 2013.
The letter is attached and below.
April 3, 2014
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
U. S. Department of Homeland Security
Nebraska Avenue Complex
3801 Nebraska Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Secretary Johnson:
According to recent media reports, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) encountered and released 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions in 2013. We were surprised to learn this information, particularly in light of two letters we sent to your department on the issue of criminal detainee releases in connection with sequestration.
Last year, we wrote to Secretary Napolitano requesting information on the release of illegal aliens with criminal records detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). Through that request, we learned that many of the 622 detainees released from ICE custody in February 2013 had significant criminal records. ICE provided information about the criminal records, without names, of 32 detainees with multiple felony convictions (Level One offenders), 24 of whom were subsequently redetained, and at least 80 detainees with criminal backgrounds amounting to level two offenses. Earlier this month, we wrote additionally to seek information on last year’s detainee release and inquire whether ICE or DHS has taken any actions to ensure accountability for what occurred. We have yet to receive a response to this bipartisan request.
It appears that those 622 released detainees represent a mere tip of the iceberg, in comparison to the figures cited in recent media reports. In 2013, ICE reportedly encountered and released 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions. ICE documents apparently indicated that in Phoenix, Arizona, 42 percent of criminal aliens encountered – most of whom had been incarcerated after being arrested by local authorities – were released in 2013.
The Congressional Research Service (“CRS”) issued a report in July 2012 that found that between 2008 and 2011 over 26,000 illegal aliens with criminal records were released instead of deported and that these former detainees went on to commit nearly 58,000 crimes soon after their release. These additional crimes were found to include 59 murders, 21 attempted murders, more than 4,000 major felonies and 1,000 other violent crimes.
Due to the importance of these findings, please provide answers to the following questions:
1. Media reports indicate that the number of aliens with a criminal conviction encountered and released by ICE added up to nearly 68,000. That figure was reportedly based on ICE’s Weekly Departures and Detention Report from October 2013. Can you confirm whether this number is accurate? Please provide a copy of each Weekly Departures and Detention Report for the year 2013.
2. Regarding the reported 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions who ICE encountered and released:
a. Please provide a breakdown on the nature of ICE’s encounter with the aliens in question.
b. How many “encounters” resulted from an arrest by local or federal law enforcement?
c. How many were detained by ICE?
3. How many of the 68,000 aliens with criminal records who were released were level one offenders? Please provide a breakdown of level one offenses that these aliens committed.
4. What criteria are you using when determining whether to release illegal detainees with criminal records?
5. Do you draw any distinction between criminal offenses when deciding whom to release?
6. Who makes the decision to release an illegal detainee who has been found to have a criminal record?
7. Do you agree or disagree with the findings from the CRS report from July 2012? If you agree, how will you remedy the deficiencies identified? If not, which part do you disagree with? Please be specific.
8. Please explain why the number of criminal alien encounters and releases jumped from 26,000 over a three-year period, 2008-2011, to 68,000 over a one-year period in 2013.
9. Given the materiality of these revelations to the issues raised in the two prior letters, why did your department not previously disclose to the Subcommittee any information about those releases?
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please have your staff contact Jack Thorlin (Senator McCain) at 202/224-XXXX or Dan Goshorn (Senator Levin) at 202/224-XXXX.
Ranking Minority Member
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations