The Corner

Is Hillary Responsible for Releasing Criminal Aliens?

In response to my colleague Jessica Vaughan’s revelation that an “ICE Document Details 36,000 Criminal Alien Releases in 2013,” the Obama administration said that many of the releases were mandated by a Supreme Court ruling from 2001. A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Breitbart News that “mandatory releases” accounted for “over 75 percent of the homicides listed” (of which there were 193 — meaning that ICE chose to release “only” about 40 of the foreigners with homicide convictions). For all the criminal alien releases, Vaughan’s report estimates that about 8 percent fell in this category, or close to 3,000 people.

The Supreme Court case cited is Zadvydas v. Davis, which held that the federal government can detain aliens for deportation up to six months but generally must release the alien into the United States after that point if there is “no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future.” One of the main reasons such a situation arises is that a criminal alien’s home country will refuse to take its nationals back. In the words of a Boston Globe story about released criminal aliens who commit new crimes, “More than 20 governments from Jamaica to China routinely block deportation of their citizens.” 

However, federal law requires the secretary of state to stop issuing visas to the citizens of any country that refuses to take back its nationals. Such a threat would have a remarkable effect on a country’s willingness to cooperate, increasing the “likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future” and thereby allowing for detention longer than six months, if necessary. As the Supreme Court explained, its holding “does not mean that every alien not removed must be released after six months.”

So, why are we still releasing criminals? Have China, Jamaica, and the rest stubbornly defied our cutoff of their visas?

Hardly. What’s actually happened is that nothing’s happened. The State Department has ignored the legal mandate and just keeps on issuing visas in countries that won’t take back their own citizens. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have decided it’s better for ICE to release criminal aliens into American communities — even at the risk of their committing further crimes — than to risk upsetting relations by halting the issuance of visas, as required by law. Back in 2011, then–DHS secretary Janet Napolitano admitted at a hearing that she wasn’t aware of the Obama administration ever having complied with this legal requirement.

Specifically, the law states:

“On being notified by the [DHS Secretary] that the government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays accepting an alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident of that country after the [DHS Secretary] asks whether the government will accept the alien under this section, the Secretary of State shall order consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country until the [DHS Secretary] notifies the Secretary that the country has accepted the alien.” [8 U.S.C. § 1253(d); emphasis added]

So why didn’t Secretary Clinton or Secretary Kerry stop issuing visas in these countries and force them to take their dangerous citizens back? Which is more important, protecting Americans or placating foreign governments?

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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