Criminal Aliens: Catch and Release?

​​​​​Date:  May 4, 2016

Host:  Jim Schneider

Guest:  Jessica Vaughan

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​When it comes to the subject of immigration, how do we secure our borders and handle those who are in our nation illegally, especially those who are committing heinous crimes? Frustrating matters is news of a report that has emerged that indicates that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to release deportable criminal aliens from its custody at an alarming rate

Joining Jim to discuss this was Jessica Vaughan. Jessica serves as director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies. They are a Washington D.C. based research institute that examines the impact of immigration on American society and educates policymakers and opinion leaders on immigration issues. Prior to joining the center in 1992, Jessica was a foreign service officer with the State Department.

According to Jessica, a criminal alien is a non-citizen who has been convicted of a crime in the U.S. It can be someone here illegally, someone here on a temporary visa or it could even be someone with a ‘green card’. These individuals are potentially deportable. She believes this is why it’s important to discuss not only illegal immigrants who come to the U.S. and commit crimes but anyone who is not a citizen.

The numbers aren’t good and shows this issue to be chronic problem under the Obama administration, especially in the past few years. In 2015, ICE freed almost 20,000 criminal aliens that had been started on the deportation process instead of holding them in custody. The numbers were slightly lower in 2015 but in 2013 it was 36,000 and in 2014 it was about 30,000.

Jessica notes that even 20,000 is nothing to celebrate. New policies were put into place that don’t allow ICE officers to arrest as many people and that’s the reason for the lower number. In addition, these individuals are usually released without supervision and sent back to U.S. communities. Also, a large number of these individuals go on to commit additional crimes and therefore are a threat to public safety.

Of the approximately 20,000 criminal aliens that were released, they were responsible for 64,000 convictions. Jessica feels that while this doesn’t make sense, she believes the Obama administration doesn’t think immigration enforcement is an important part of the law and that they place a higher importance on keeping illegal immigrant families together. The problem is, that kind of policy stance can and has permanently separated American families who have been the victims of criminal alien crimes.

Adding frustration to the situation is the fact that some nations refuse to take back such individuals. The law requires the federal government to stop issuing visas in those nations. However, that law is not being applied as it might upset relations with those nations or we don’t have good relations with them in the first place. In spite of that Jessica noted that we need to be a little more aggressive with these nations. Violators include: Cuba, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Iran, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Doesn’t Congress have some authority on this issue? What are the implications of the United States v. Texas case on this topic? Are unaccompanied minors still a problem and are they victims of human trafficking as the Obama administration would have us believe? Are immigration courts doing what they’re supposed to? Is there firm evidence to believe that ISIS members are infiltrating Syrian refugee efforts? These questions are answered and callers bring their perspective as well on this vital edition of Crosstalk.

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