Cindy Carcamo, Orange County Register, February 3, 2011
Nationwide, hundreds of convicts who were eligible for removal from the United States were released from federal and state custody in 2009 because Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials failed to identify them, according to the Office of Inspector General, which released the report Wednesday.
Nationwide, the report concludes that 890 of 49,033 convicts eligible for removal from the country were not identified. Understaffing, an ever-increasing work load and lax documentation are to blame for the misidentifications, the report stated.
“Identifying and removing convicted criminal aliens is a top enforcement priority for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a written statement. “That focus is reflected in the fact that ICE removed more than 195,000 convicted criminal aliens from the United States last year, a record number.”
The Office of Inspector General reviewed whether ICE officials were identifying convicts in federal and state custody who were eligible for deportation. Convicts eligible for removal are those who are in the country illegally or legal permanent residents who have been convicted of a crime that makes them eligible for removal.
The report found that about 2 percent of those in state and federal custody and eligible for removal from the country went undetected and were released. Many of them had committed the most egregious of crimes, such as sexual assault.
One of those released convicts in California was a man from Mexico who had completed a 17-month state prison sentence for possession of narcotics. The man had entered the country illegally and had past convictions for battery to a public official and burglary, the report stated.
In a separate case, ICE released a man from Mexico who was in federal custody. The man was sentenced to 30 months for illegally re-entering the U.S. He had been convicted of lewd conduct to a child in 2004 and was previously deported in 2006.
ICE’s Criminal Alien Program is in charge of identifying, processing and removing convicts who are in the country illegally and incarcerated in federal, state and local correctional facilities, including Orange County. The program also is also intended to identify legal permanent residents who are eligible for deportation after having committed a removable offense.
The report shows that during fiscal year 2009, ICE issued about 212,000 immigration detainers nationwide on incarcerated convicts who were eligible for removal.