The national immigration debate is being rocked by the new report showing more than 36,000 criminals in the country illegally were released on American soil in just the past year, and the author now says this is the result of a badly flawed system and a growing desire within the Obama administration not to deport illegal aliens.
Jessica Vaughan is director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. In addition to the number of criminals released, her research shows those offenders committed more than 88,000 crimes, many of them after being released from custody.
The Obama administration admits that it is looking to decrease deportations, essentially focusing efforts on those deemed to be a threat to public safety while allowing nonviolent offenders to stay in the U.S. Many of the 36,000 criminals are under orders to be deported, but were released, rather than detained, until they were due to be sent out of the country. Vaughan said this sort of lax immigration enforcement puts all of us at risk.
“They’re really playing Russian roulette with our safety. We do know from other studies that have been done that a very significant share of these people do go on to commit other crimes. In fact, a 2012 study by the House Judiciary Committee found that about 58,000 crimes were committed by illegal aliens who were released instead of processed for deportation,” Vaughan said.
“That’s a gamble and they’re betting on our safety, but I would rather them err on the side of caution and keep people in custody, not only to keep us safe but also to make sure these individuals are deported,” she said.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Jessica Vaughan:
The track record of the Obama administration on immigration enforcement has a lot of people confused. The administration claims deportations were up considerably in the early years of the Obama presidency in comparison to the final years of the George W. Bush administration.
However, the government has recently admitted that illegals simply turned back at the border are now counted as being deported. Previously, only those who went through the system and were formally deported were counted.
Vaughan said it's hard to calculate what the real numbers are but the actions of President Obama concern her greatly.
"The most important metric that we could look at is the size of the illegal immigrant population. It was dropping from about 2007-2009 and then has gone up a little bit. That's a pretty strong indication things are not getting any better," she said.
"The other important figure to look at is the number of interior deportations, which has been dropping steadily for the last couple of years, even though the number of illegal aliens who have been identified, especially the number who have been identified after arrest, so these numbers are very concerning for those who think the first thing we should do when talking about immigration is to enforce the laws we have," Vaughan said.
"Clearly they are not being enforced as vigorously as they were in the past and the administration was able to claim this record number of deportations by counting Border Patrol arrests that got turned over to (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) instead of looking at the traditional way which is interior enforcement," she said.
The decreasing focus on interior enforcement may well be the tip of the iceberg in the administration's admitted efforts to limit deportations.
In addition to the 36,000 criminals who were processed but released, she said another 68,000 were approached by ICE in 2013 for violating immigration laws but did not ultimately face charges.
Vaughan said the Department of Homeland Security is sending clear signs that this will only become more common.
"Secretary (Jeh) Johnson is saying that he's going to scale back the Secure Communities Program, which is the program under which all these criminal aliens are identified. So the numbers are only going to go up if what I'm hearing is correct. They're not going to allow ICE agents to accept referrals of criminal aliens from state and local police and sheriffs. So you've got a sheriff with people in custody and they want this criminal removed, and ICE agents are going to have to say, 'No, sorry,'" she said.
Defenders of the Obama administration's goal of reducing deportations claim they are saving taxpayers a great deal of money. They estimate each deportation costs roughly $12,500 and removing young people also eliminates a lifetime of tax revenue from them.
Vaughan isn't swayed. She said the government's position is weakened by its own inefficiencies and conflicting priorities.
"It is much costlier for the government, and by extension for American taxpayers, because there are two immigration court systems. One is for people who are detained, and that moves very quickly. They get their order of deportation much faster. If they are not detained, there is a backlog that is about two years right now. So the more people that they let out to await their hearing, the longer that hearing is going to take," Vaughan said.
"That gets especially expensive when people never show up for their hearings and have to be tracked down by ICE. That's very labor intensive," she said.
"But I find it ironic that the administration has actually asked Congress to reduce funding for detention for criminals who are in the deportation process. They asked for a 10 percent cut this year. That's why it was especially shocking to find out they are releasing criminals even as they're saying they don't need as much money for detention space."
Vaughan said detaining more criminal illegals until deportation would save a lot of money, but she insists a bigger goal needs to be in mind.
"The answer is not to detain and deport every illegal alien in the country. The answer is to have deterrents in place, such as preventing illegal employment, not allowing people who are here illegally to access social welfare systems and have better border enforcement so that fewer people will try to come here illegally and those who are here will realize it's not as good a deal for them to be here," she said. "Over time, this becomes much less of a problem. The more we can deter illegal immigration, the fewer people we'll have to detain and deport."