New Report: Obama Catch and Release Policies Result in More Crimes, More Victims

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under subpoena from the House immigration subcommittee show that criminal aliens who were identified through the Secure Communities program, but then released by ICE, went on to be arrested for nearly 58,000 new crimes between October 2008 and July 2011. This report conservatively quantifies the public safety damage inflicted by the Obama administration's catch and release immigration enforcement policies.

The report was written by analysts at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the request of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas), using the data from DHS.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Over the time period studied, October 27, 2008, to July 31, 2011, ICE took no action against more than 159,000 non-citizens who were arrested by local officers and flagged by the Secure Communities program.

  • Of these 159,000 criminal aliens, nearly 47,000 were illegal aliens; another 16,000 had temporary visas; 87,000 had green cards; and 9,000 had another legal status such as refugee or temporary protected status. Regrettably, the analysis does not identify those who entered with visa waivers.

  • More than 26,000 of the released criminal aliens, or about one in six, were arrested again within the time period studied. They were charged with nearly 58,000 new crimes during this time period.

  • The 58,000 new crimes included 59 murders, 21 attempted murders, and more than 5,000 major or violent criminal offenses. In addition, they were charged with more than 6,000 drug violations and more than 8,000 DUI violations.
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The CRS analysts suggest that the large number of released criminal aliens is understandable, since many of them had legal status and ICE might not have had the authority to pursue deportation if the charges were minor or the alien was not ultimately convicted. This is highly speculative, however, and not indicated or supported by the data. Even those non-citizens who have been granted some form of legal status can (and usually should) be removed if they commit serious offenses, violate the terms of their admission, or if their status expires. While these aliens may be entitled to more generous forms of due process than those who sneak across the border, they are not exempt from immigration law enforcement.

After parsing out the criminal aliens who had been granted some form of legal status, the CRS analysts identified more than 7,000 cases that were an apparent slam-dunk for removal, but who for some reason were passed up by ICE. They were arrested for more than 10,000 new crimes, including more than 4,000 major or violent crimes; 19 were murder or homicide offenses.

The report does not address the number of cases of illegal aliens who were arrested but not identified by Secure Communities because the alien did not have a record on file with ICE. Several large local law enforcement agency bosses have told me that Secure Communities is missing as many as half of the arrested illegal aliens.

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In addition, it does not account for those criminal aliens who were identified but released under local sanctuary policies. The Obama administration has put up no resistance to these policies.

For more analysis of the results and operation of the Secure Communities program, see our recent series "Secure Communities By the Numbers, Revisited".

The data from Secure Communities suggest several things. First, Congress should provide DHS with additional resources for the detention and removal of criminal aliens, whether the Obama administration asks for it or not (they haven't). Second, DHS should be directed to expand its capacity to effect removals by making more use of tools such as expedited and stipulated removal (use of these tools has been curtailed in recent years). Thirdly, with so many legal immigrants and visitors involved in crime, policymakers should examine our admission policies to better ensure that criminals are not issued visas or green cards.