More than 1,400 immigrants on the path to deportation who have been released by the federal government have gone on to be convicted of new crimes ranging from sexual assault to burglary, according to federal data.
Additionally, there are more than 347,000 convicted criminal immigrants in the country illegally who have been released onto the streets. About half of those are currently in removal proceedings, and the rest have received orders to be removed from the country but are still roaming free.
The new data released by the House Judiciary Committee, which received it from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is sure to rile conservative critics of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policy.
The news comes on the heels of a woman’s killing in a popular San Francisco waterfront that authorities say was committed by an undocumented immigrant who had been convicted of a felony and had been deported from the country five times.
“Despite DHS’s [the Department of Homeland Security] pledge to prioritize the removal of serious criminal aliens, in the last year the number of administrative arrests of criminal aliens has fallen by a third and the department continues to release thousands of such aliens onto our streets,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said during a hearing with department Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday.
“This effectively releases criminal aliens onto the streets, with all too tragic results,” he added.
In the wake of the San Francisco killing, conservatives have jumped on the chance to blast “sanctuary cities” that ignore federal immigration orders, and accuse the administration of letting them get away with it.
“The clear answer to this problem is for DHS to mandate compliance with detainers and for this administration to defend the mandatory nature of detainers in federal court,” Goodlatte railed on Tuesday.
"The last time I looked we had a supremacy clause [in the Constitution], so federal law trumps state law, and God knows it trumps the law in San Francisco," echoed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
Johnson refuted the criticism.
While he encouraged cities to abide by federal orders, he said that they should not be forced to do so.
“I do not think we should mandate the conduct of state and local law enforcement though legislation,” Johnson said.
Instead, “the most effective way” to get jurisdictions to abide by its orders “is through a cooperative effort with a program that removes the legal and political controversy," he said.