Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn issued a list of tough questions for Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in response to an explosive claim that over 36,000 criminal aliens awaiting deportation proceedings in 2013 were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“Unfortunately, your Department’s release of more than 36,000 criminal aliens in FY 2013 has done great damage to [the laws passed by Congress],” wrote Cornyn to Johnson on Wednesday, in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller.
On Monday, the Center for Immigration Studies reported on documents obtained from DHS which showed that ICE released 36,007 criminal aliens last year. In total, they had committed nearly 88,000 crimes, including 193 homicides, 426 sexual assaults, 1,317 domestic violence assaults, and 16,070 drunk or drugged driving incidents.
“Because aliens who have committed serious crimes face a high probability of deportation at the conclusion of their removal proceedings,” wrote Cornyn in the letter, “the detention of criminal aliens also ensures that these individuals are unable to abscond and further avoid immigration enforcement by disappearing in the United States.”
Cornyn pointed out that DHS is authoritized by the Immigration and Nationality Act to “detain criminal aliens during their removal proceedings when they have been previously convicted of offenses involving moral turpitude, aggravated felonies, controlled substances offenses, firearm offenses, and other dangerous crimes.”
Cornyn laid out twelve questions for Johnson covering various concerns, including on how the on-going release of criminal aliens has effected the state of Texas and also whether the victims of aliens’ crimes are notified of their release.
“Will your department commit to providing Congress with quarterly reports on the number of criminal aliens released from DHS custody pending the outcome of their removal proceedings?” Cornyn wrote.
The Texas senator also sought information on the number of alien convicts released into Texas and whether or not DHS had given Texas authorities notice of criminal aliens it had released.
In his letter, Cornyn also asks how many criminal aliens released by DHS had “subsequently committed a criminal offense,” as well as the number who had failed to appear for removal proceedings.
“What is the total number of criminal aliens released by your Department last year who were released as a result of changes to your Department’s prosecutorial discretion policies since 2011?” Cornyn asked.
In 2011, the Obama administration announced its prosecutorial discretion policy which gives authorities leeway on whether or not to proceed in deportation cases. Deportations have decreased by 40 percent since the new policy, according to some estimates.
“Do these numbers suggest that your Department is employing ‘catch and release’ enforcement tactics?” wrote Cornyn.
“Catch and release” refers to the release of detained illegal immigrants.
Cornyn’s letter to Johnson comes after House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte and former chairman Lamar Smith issued a statement Monday calling for an oversight hearing in coming weeks.