America’s immigration court judges allow one in three illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes — like rape and drunk driving — roam free in the U.S.
The judges released 32.9 percent of 5,530 illegal aliens charged with crimes since Oct. 1, 2015. That’s the highest percentage since at least 1998, according to Executive Office of Immigration Review data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
“They’re not giving them a legal status, but they’re letting them stay,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “So it’s like a de facto amnesty.”
If an immigration judge decides not to order a person’s deportation, the illegal immigrant may stay in the U.S. after serving any prison time determined in a criminal court.
Those illegal immigrants convicted of crimes are likely to re-offend, Vaughan said.
The data obtained by TRAC is consistent with a Boston Globe investigation that discovered 30 percent of 323 criminal illegal aliens released in New England from 2008 to 2012 committed new crimes, including rape and child molestation.
Illegal immigrants with criminal charges haven’t always had such a good shot at staying in the U.S. In 1998, immigration judges allowed only 11.8 percent of illegal immigrants with criminal charges stay in the U.S., according to TRAC. By 2008, that figure increased to 22 percent, and continued to climb each year of President Barack Obama’s presidency.
The increasing proportion of criminal illegal aliens allowed to stay in the U.S. reflects a broader trend of all illegal immigrants allowed to stay. Immigration courts — backlogged with nearly half a million cases — allowed 57 percent of all illegal immigrants before their courts to stay in the country in the first 10 months of 2016, the highest rate since at least 1998. (RELATED: Detainer Requests Plummeting Under Obama)
The U.S. attorney general appoints the country’s 273 immigration judges, without a Senate confirmation. Judges then fall under the Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review. The federal government considers most immigration offenses civil, not criminal, and judges have no ability to enforce what they order.
Immigration judges in some states and cities allow much higher rates of criminally charged illegal immigrants stay in the country. Oregon judges in 2016, for example, allowed 80 percent of the 63 illegal aliens charged with to crimes stay in the U.S. Oregon has about 30 sanctuary cities, counties and jurisdictions. Officials in such jurisdictions refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in the deportation process.
“I was not surprised to see that for example Oregon has a very low rate of deporting people, and one reason for that is it’s basically a sanctuary state,” Vaughan told TheDCNF.
Immigration judges in Tennessee only heard cases for 25 illegal aliens charged with crimes in 2016, but allowed 64 percent — nearly two in three — to avoid deportation. New York immigration judges allowed allowed 46 percent of 598 illegal immigrants charged with crimes to stay in the country.
Hawaii, by contrast, allowed 81 percent of illegal aliens with only immigration offenses to stay in the country, but ordered deportation for 81 percent of illegal aliens charged with other crimes, according to TRAC.
Louisiana and Georgia immigration judges were the most likely to order deportations for criminally charge aliens, at 92.4 percent and 83.4 percent, respectively.
At the local level, immigration judges in some cities, particularly sanctuary cities, allow illegal aliens with criminal charges to remain in the country at high rates.
Immigration court judges in Denver, Colo., were the most lenient. They allowed nearly 86 percent of illegal immigrants charged with a crime to stay in the country. Harlingen, Texas, courts allowed the second-highest rate of criminally charged illegal aliens to stay, 81.3 percent, followed by Portland’s 80.8 percent and Seattle’s 79.5 percent.
Most of the criminal illegal immigrants allowed to stay in the country in the fist 10 months of 2016 came from Mexico. Judges allowed 2,035 people from Mexico with criminal charges to remain in the U.S., followed by 391 from the Dominican Republic, 262 from Jamaica and 244 from El Salvador, according to TRAC.
It isn’t a coincident that judges are more lenient than they were two decades ago, Vaughan claimed. She says Obama has made “deliberate” policy changes “to give every illegal alien possible an opportunity to take advantage of the most generous due process possible and to give them every bite at the apple to try to win the right to stay in the United States.”
But criminal illegal aliens aren’t only released through the courts system. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the primary Department of Homeland Security entity responsible for deporting illegal aliens, released a total of 19,723 illegal immigrants in 2015, according to CIS. More than 200 of those people committed murder.
ICE released some of those criminal aliens because their home countries refused to take them back. ICE also sometimes fails to show up at local jails within 48 hours as required, at which point local authorities can no longer hold the illegal immigrants.
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