Judicial Watch announced today on July 21, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain records relating to the release by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of 36,000 criminal aliens in 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:14-cv-01237)).
According to a report published by the Washington, DC-based group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the criminal aliens had been convicted of violent and serious crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and aggravated assault.
Judicial Watch filed the FOIA lawsuit after DHS failed to respond to a May 15, 2014, FOIA request seeking the following information:
Any and all records of communications including, but not limited to, emails and memoranda, to or from personnel in the office of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (including its component offices, such as the Office of Public Affairs), from May 1 to May 15, 2014, concerning, regarding, or related to the report published by the Center for Immigrations Studies concerning the release of 36,000 criminal aliens.
According to the May 2014 CIS report, in 2013 ICE freed 36,007 convicted criminal aliens from detention who were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings. This group included aliens convicted of hundreds of serious, often violent crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. The CIS document revealed that those convicted criminal aliens had nearly 88,000 convictions, including:
- 193 homicide convictions (including one willful killing of a public official with gun)
- 426 sexual assault convictions
- 303 kidnapping convictions
- 1,075 aggravated assault convictions
- 1,160 stolen vehicle convictions
- 9,187 dangerous drug convictions
- 16,070 drunk or drugged driving convictions
- 303 flight escape convictions
Immediately following the release of the CIS report, former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) issued a statement terming the action: “the worst prison break in American history.” Rep. Smith laid the responsibility at the feet of President Obama, adding, “[I]t was sanctioned by the President and perpetrated by our own immigration officials … The Administration’s actions are outrageous. They willfully and knowingly put the interests of criminal immigrants before the safety and security of the American people.”
Three weeks following the release of the report, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was he was “still trying to understand what happened,” and declined to provide further details as to how the criminal aliens were freed or who was responsible. Johnson told the committee, “I am aware of the reports that in Fiscal Year 2013 thousands of individuals with criminal convictions who may be removable were released from custody. I have asked for a deeper understanding of this issue.”
According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch in May 2013, this is not the first time Obama immigration policies have resulted in lax treatment of dangerous or potentially dangerous illegal aliens. The documents, obtained in accordance with an October 2012 FOIA request, revealed that the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) abandoned required background checks in 2012, adopting instead costly “lean and lite” procedures in an effort to keep up with the flood of amnesty applications spurred by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) directive, which grants illegal aliens a two-year deferment from deportation. The documents also revealed that, contrary to administration claims, Obama’s DACA policies applied only to minors who came to this country illegally “through no fault of their own,” the directive actually created a new wave of chain migration, whereby immediate relatives of DACA requesters could be approved for amnesty. As a result, according to an agency memo from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services District 15 Director David Douglas, “some of the districts closer to the U.S./Mexico border have been inundated.”
“How many Americans will be killed, maimed, or victimized by the Obama administration’s release of aliens convicted of violent crimes?” asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Under President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security has turned from a law enforcement agency into one that undermines and violates our nation’s immigration laws in a way that threatens the public safety. And now Homeland Security is in cover-up mode and violating federal law to keep documents about its mass release of criminals away from the American people.”
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