In a heated exchange in Congress Thursday, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that under her agency’s discretion they have released violent illegal aliens from detention.
Throughout the hearing held on the release of criminal aliens held by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, ICE Director Sarah Saldana deflected responsibility of release of criminal aliens by saying she was following existing statutes.
“You continue to focus on everyone else that has a stake in this and yet some of the blame actually rests directly with you,” North Carolina Rep. [crscore]Mark Meadows[/crscore] told Saldana.
Meadows asked Saldana, “Do you know the entire universe of those who have commited crimes that get detained, do you know who they are?
“Who are in the country illegally?” The ICE director replied.
“No who get arrested by local law enforcement, do you get notified of all of those under the new system which would be the Priorities Enforcement Program,” Meadows responded.
Saldana replied, “Not necessarily.”
The Priorities Enforcement Program (PEP) replaced the Secure Communities Act in 2014 as the program through which state and local law enforcement works with ICE to detain illegal aliens who pose a public safety risk.
“Under the Secure Communities Act, [law enforcement] were actually required to come and ping you and let you know that they had someone who committed a crime,” Meadows said. However under PEP, Saldana said that local law enforcement is now not required to let ICE know they have detained someone who has committed a violent act.
“Why would ICE be arresting and detaining 40 percent less people than they did the previous year?” Meadow then asked. The congressman is referring to the fact ICE has had 40 percent less detainers and removals in 2015 than in 2014.
Meadows continued to ask, “is it your testimony here today that they are less people who are actually committing the crimes?”
The ICE director replied, “We have fewer people in the system.”
“By design because you’ve changed the system to make sure they are fewer people in the system,” Meadows shot back.
He then asked, “out of the seven thousand plus that you had the discretion to let go were any of those violent?
“Yes, they were some who had been convicted of violent crimes,” Saldana said.