The Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee led by Chairman John Carter heard testimony Thursday from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials during a congressional hearing concerning the release of detainees for supposed budgetary reasons.
The witnesses were: ICE Director John Morton, Deputy Director Dan Ragsdale and Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations Gary Mead.
Despite promises from the Secretary and Director, the Department of Homeland Security had not, prior to Thursday's hearing, provided any answers to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee regarding specific details as to what happened and why the detainees were released.
At the hearing, ICE Director Morton testified to the Subcommittee that 2,228 detainees were released. Of those released, 10 are "Level 1" criminals, meaning they have been convicted of aggravated felonies; 159 are "Level 2" criminals, convicted felons with multiple misdemeanors convictions; and 460 are "Level 3" criminals with lower-level convictions.
In Texas, 761 detainees were released, which is 34.2%, or one-third, of the total number of released detainees and the most released in any state.
"I called this hearing to get answers on why dangerous criminal aliens were released into our communities. We got some answers but not enough. While the Director owned up to the decisions ICE made in releasing detainees into our communities, I remain perplexed as to why a law enforcement agency would take such a drastic measure," said Chairman Carter, who has also requested full reconciling of the non-criminal aliens released. Documented gang members, those with national security concerns, and those with pending criminal proceedings for serious crimes all fall in the category of non-criminals. Further, the Chairman has demanded details on the level of supervision to which these released detainees have been subjected.
"The Director's testimony documents that ICE's mission requires more than 34,000 beds. We know that 34,000 beds were funded under the current FY 2013 continuing resolution. To the extent that ICE needed additional funds to manage its operational needs, I cannot understand why ICE and the Department did not seek a reprogramming or transfer of funds to sustain its operations rather than take this action," said Chairman Carter.
Chairman Carter adds that the lack of details on the release of the detainees only bolsters his and the public's concern that the actions taken by ICE were politically motivated and may adversely affect current efforts at comprehensive immigration reform.
"This Administration has a lot to answer for and I am committed to keeping them honest and upfront about the release of these detainees," said Chairman Carter, telling ICE, "After all the effort and funds expended to bring illegal aliens into custody, it is incomprehensible that ICE would release criminal aliens into our communities. I believe we need to reform our immigration system. But incidents like this leave me in an untenable position. We expect you to comply with the law and utilize the resources you have available to enforce the law."