Federal immigration officers released 30,000 immigrants convicted of a crime in 2014 on top of the 36,000 released the year before, the US government admitted on Wednesday. The government has pledged to take steps to deal with this problem in the future.
The agency that deals with the removal and detention of undocumented immigrants, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), says that overcrowding will no longer be the primary reason to release potentially dangerous criminal immigrants, as the release of any serious offender would now need to be agreed to by a senior supervisor. A total of 30,558 criminal immigrants were released by ICE last year, a slight fall from the figure of 36,007 in 2013.
An outcry followed the releases in 2013 and the latest news about further releases is likely to increase calls for the agency to take control of its actions. ICE claims that it has little choice but to release many of the immigrants, as immigrants who cannot be returned to their home countries cannot be held on an indefinite basis thanks to a prior court decision.
Congressional Republicans have suggested that the law should be rewritten to be able to detain serious criminals for longer periods. The Obama administration has declined requests to deny US visas to national leaders whose countries refuse to take back their criminals. ICE has promised to step up its monitoring of those released.