Just before the sequester commenced on March 1, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement division (ICE) freed illegal-alien detainees from federal custody. Not to worry, White House spokesman Jay Carney reassured the American people. These were just “low-level, non-criminal detainees.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said of these inmates, “Several hundred are related to sequester, but it wasn’t thousands.”
Like so many Obamaite statements, however, these announcements now are inoperative.
Senators John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D., Mich.) announced May 16 that ICE’s behavior was even worse than it appeared.
“Without explanation or warning,” McCain and Levin stated, ICE officials “released from custody 2,226 detainees into communities across the country.” Rather than Carney’s “low-level, non-criminal detainees,” the senators explained, ICE had “freed 622 detainees with criminal records, including 32 with multiple felony convictions.” As detailed in a May 6 letter to the senators from DHS’s just-departed assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Nelson Peacock, these 32 serial felons are Level 1, or highest-risk detainees. ICE also emancipated another 80 Level 2 detainees.
Meet a few of the illegal aliens with rap sheets whom Team Obama turned loose onto America’s streets:
ICE’s Phoenix District Office released a detainee convicted of felony second-degree robbery and, according to McCain and Levin, “countless convictions” for prostitution and solicitation for lewd conduct. Thus, this freed detainee is a sex offender.
ICE Phoenix liberated one person convicted of harassment, criminal property damage, and “an extreme case of driving under the influence.”
Also in Phoenix, ICE unchained one especially busy detainee. This individual was convicted of trespassing, vandalism, second-degree burglary, felony drug possession, DUI with a controlled substance, and carrying a loaded firearm.
ICE San Francisco freed someone with a felony conviction for manufacturing bogus identifications.
Also in San Francisco, one detainee walked, despite two DUI and two stalking convictions – the second from 2012.
ICE Houston unshackled someone convicted of felony possession of up to 2,000 pounds of marijuana. Even those who wisely favor drug legalization should recognize that, under today’s system, someone wielding a ton of pot likely is a very tough and possibly violent customer.
After it flung open the jail cells for these and other characters, DHS realized its folly. It then rearrested 24 of these 32 felons. The other eight presumably remain free.
If it’s any comfort, the letter from Peacock (who left DHS last Friday) says that “all of the aliens released remained in immigration proceedings.” Beyond those who were rearrested, others are on bond, on order of supervision, or are monitored telephonically or via GPS. Of course, nothing prevents these aliens from snipping their ankle bracelets and escaping into a vast country with 314 million people.
“ICE’s reprehensible actions put Arizona at risk by setting free into our communities hundreds of detainees who were guilty of criminal offenses,” said Senator McCain. “The ICE officials responsible for this must face disciplinary action and must take all actions necessary to ensure that this never happens again.”
This episode, which Governor Rick Perry (R., Texas) denounced as a “federally sponsored jailbreak,” follows the same playbook as do the other scandals in which the Obama Administration is ensnaring itself.
First, deny knowledge about the imbroglio du jour.
Napolitano claimed to know nothing about this massive prisoner release until it happened. “Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is [sic] really handled by career officials in the field,” Napolitano told ABC News. She seemingly learned about all of this where Obama gets his inside information: Newspapers.
“It still is extremely puzzling that, apparently, the secretary of homeland security said she didn’t know anything about the decision,” said an astonished Senator McCain. “Isn’t she supposed to?”
Governor Jan Brewer (R., Ariz.) asked DHS for the criminal backgrounds of these freed detainees. She still awaits DHS’s reply.
“The administration’s actions in releasing thousands of criminal aliens were appalling,” Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson told the Arizona Republic. “But just as appalling is its continued stonewalling of critical information sought by elected leaders like Governor Brewer.”
McCain and Levin complained that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations received specifics about these detainees from DHS only “after a three month delay and under threat of a possible subpoena.”
Beyond Congress, at least one outside group seeks missing pieces of this puzzle.
“We are in the midst of a major investigation into the details of Obama’s latest amnesty gambit,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton tells me. “I know that local law enforcement is concerned about the criminals Obama released onto the streets. I have little doubt innocent lives will be lost due to this lawless scheme. Obama once again has put politics above public safety.”
Third, avoid accountability.
“As far as we know, no disciplinary action has been taken against the ICE officials that were responsible for the action,” McCain said. Those who improperly freed 2,226 detainees never budged from their desks, nor has hardly anyone involved with the corruption at the IRS; the Justice Department’s frightful treatment of the Associated Press, at least three Fox News Channel journalists, and possibly Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News; and the deadly incompetence and appalling cover-up related to al-Qaeda’s attack in Benghazi.
So, why did Team Obama do this? They claim that the sequester’s budget cuts forced ICE’s hand. However, these detainees waltzed out of their cells before the sequester kicked in. Even if we accept ICE’s argument, the agency at least should have waited to see whether a last-minute deal would secure the funds needed to keep high-risk aliens behind bars.
Beyond that, though, DHS and ICE should have made this policy an absolute last resort, not their first response to the sequester. Freezing or cutting salaries, postponing new hires, or any number of other steps should have been taken to find the necessary funds to keep these illegal-alien criminals locked up.
All of this perfectly fit Obama’s sequester strategy: Put the American people in physical danger of abuse, injury, or death in order to blame Republicans and, thus, mobilize public opinion to end the sequester and demand big spending as usual. If reduced FDA food inspections unleashed E. coli or harried air-traffic controllers accidentally steered a couple of jets into each other, well, that apparently would serve the higher good of convincing Americans that they need Big Government. Thankfully, Congress gave the FDA and FAA the financial flexibility to continue their food- and flight-safety activities.
These services likely could be delivered better by the private sector. However, that transition should be accomplished in an orderly manner. Until then, today’s system should not be manipulated, especially for narrow, partisan purposes such as Obama’s.
Unfortunately, ICE moved too quickly for Congress to prevent these idiotic and potentially deadly releases. If any of these 2,226 freed detainees hurts or kills an American, that citizen’s blood will soak Obama’s trim, tidy suit.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.