ICE Released 19,723 Criminal Aliens in 2015

By Jessica M. Vaughan on April 27, 2016


View More Immigration Maps


ICE continued to release deportable criminal aliens from its custody at an alarming rate in 2015, according to figures the agency provided to members of Congress this week in advance of a hearing taking place Thursday, April 28. In 2015, ICE freed 19,723 criminal aliens, who had a total of 64,197 convictions among them. These included 8,234 violent convictions and 208 homicide convictions. While the total number of releases is lower than the past two years, since the number of arrests has declined quite dramatically, the rate of releases is approximately the same — meaning that this is no progress at all, and certainly will be no consolation for the victims of these criminal aliens.

The table below enumerates the criminal convictions associated with the released aliens. The largest number of convictions was for Driving Under the Influence; there were 12,307 alcohol DUI convictions and 354 drug DUI convictions, for a total of 12,661.


Convictions for Alien Criminals Released


Convictions Number of Convictions
Traffic Offense: Driving Under the Influence, Liquor 12,307
Traffic Offense 9,811
Dangerous Drugs 7,986
Larceny 3,535
Immigration 3,064
Obstructing Judiciary/Congress/Legislature,etc. 2,561
General Crimes 2,008
Burglary 1,963
Fraudulent Activities 1,880
Assault 1,728
Public Peace 1,659
Obstructing the Police 1,420
Assault-Domestic Violence 1,347
Weapon Offenses 1,317
Invasion of Privacy 1,012
Assault- Aggravated Assault 921
Assault- Battery 912
Forgery 840
Robbery 804
Stolen Vehicle 782
Family Offenses 763
Stolen Property 761
Sex Offences (not involving Assault or Commercialized Sex) 614
Damage Property 552
Traffic Offense- Hit and Run 394
Liquor 363
Health/Safety 361
Traffic Offenses- Driving Under Influence of Drugs 354
Commercialized Sexual Offenses 352
Sexual Assault 320
Assault- Simple Assault 229
Kidnapping 216
Flight/Escape 214
Threat 134
Homicide 101
Assault- Intimidation 98
Conservation 72
Gambling 56
Embezzlement 50
Arson 41
Tax Revenue 40
Extortion 36
Juvenile Offenders 35
Obscenity 32
Smuggling 28
Homicide- Negligent Manslaughter- Weapon 19
Homicide- Negligent Manslaughter- Vehicle 19
Homicide- Willful Kill- Weapon 19
Homicide- Willful Kill- Gun 18
Bribery 13
Voluntary- Manslaughter 12
Homicide- Willful Kill- Non-family-Gun 9
Homidice- Willful Kill- Non-family- Weapon 4
Traffic Offense- Transporting Dangerous Material 4
Homicide- Willful Kill- Family- Weapon 3
Homicide- Attempt to Commit 2
Homicide- John/Jane Doe- No Warrant 1
Homicide- Negligent Manslaughter- Weapon- Attempt to Commit 1
Total 64,197

The 64,197 convictions work out to an average of 3.25 convictions per released alien.

ICE Director Sarah Saldana has tried to characterize the lower number of releases as an improvement over prior years. In 2013, ICE released 36,007 criminal aliens from its custody, and in 2014 ICE released 30,558 criminal aliens from its custody.

Saldana and ICE spokesmen have claimed that the drop in total releases is the result of new policies she implemented in 2015. In a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in March of this year, ICE said:

The lower number of criminals aliens released in fiscal year 2015 can be credited in part to enhanced oversight for custody determinations announced early in 2015 which include stepped-up internal review of such decisions and additional monitoring of criminal aliens released.

Nice try, but in fact the main reason that fewer criminals were released in 2015 is because fewer criminals were arrested to begin with. In 2015, ICE made 119,772 arrests, or just half the number of arrests made in 2013 (232,287). Under the strict enforcement rules implemented as part of President Obama's executive actions announced in 2014, ICE officers are forced to ignore a large share of the criminal aliens they identify in jails or who are referred by local law enforcement agencies.

The impact on public safety of these releases has been profound. So far, 124 criminal aliens released by ICE have subsequently been charged with homicide. One victim was Grant Ronnebeck, a 21-year-old man who was killed while working at a convenience store in Mesa, Ariz. Ronnebeck's killer was an illegal alien who was released by ICE in 2013 after conviction for a burglary and kidnapping involving drug dealing.

When ICE releases criminal aliens instead of deporting them, the chances are high that the aliens will re-offend. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 71 percent of violent offenders, 77 percent of drug offenders, and 82 percent of property offenders will be arrested for a new crime within five years of release from jail or prison. Drunk drivers are especially prone to offend repeatedly. According to an FBI statistic cited by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before ever being arrested.

For the first time, ICE has provided information on the reasons for the criminal alien releases. In 2015, more than half the releases occurred due to an immigration judge decision. In many cases, ICE shares responsibility for these decisions, depending on how vigorously the ICE attorneys argue for detention.

In more than 2,166 cases, the criminal alien was released because his/her home country refused to take him/her back. In 89 cases, ICE was unable to obtain a travel document for the alien. In these circumstances, ICE can hold the alien for no longer than 180 days.

As of January 2016, the following countries were designated by ICE as "uncooperative" in accepting deportees: Afghanistan, Algeria, Burundi, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

In numerous instances, aliens released because their home countries refused to take them back have gone on to commit further crimes, including murder. One such victim was Casey Chadwick, who was brutally stabbed in her apartment by Jean Jacques on June 15, 2015. Jacques served 16 years in prison in Connecticut for attempted murder and then was held and released three times by ICE, most recently just a few months before killing Chadwick. Chadwick's mother, Wendy Hartling, is testifying about her daughter's case at Thursday's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

It is beyond scandalous that these releases continue, year after year, even after the deaths of Chadwick, Ronnebeck, and dozens of others. These cannot be characterized as "isolated incidents" or "anecdotal" — not after 86,000 releases and 124 new homicides. We don't need new laws to prevent these events; we need a president who will allow the officers responsible for enforcing immigration laws to do their job.


Map: Criminal Aliens Released by ICE by State, FY2013 to FY2015

Criminal Aliens Released by ICE FY2013 to FY2015

 1 to 99
 100 to 499
 500 to 999
 1,000 to 2,999
 3,000 to 4,999
 5,000 to 9,999
  10,000 to 20,000
Click on State for Exact Totals