U.S. immigration officials have released from federal custody hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants accused or convicted of crimes, including homicide and sexual assault, because of a lack of space and funds, according to internal records.
The data, obtained by the Houston Chronicle through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials documented releasing suspects classified as “criminal aliens” during the past five years because of resource shortages.
Mary Loiselle, deputy director for ICE’s detention and removal operations, said the agency does not routinely release suspects specifically because of a “lack of space” or “lack of funds.”
ICE could not explain why there were hundreds of documented releases for lack of resources or provide information on individual cases.
It is unclear whether the illegal immigrants identified in the records simply absconded after being released from custody and remain in the U.S. or eventually were deported.
“The whole notion that we have enough bed space or (bed) funding is absolutely false,” said Chris Crane, ICE Council 118’s vice president for Detention and Removal Operations.
He said detention and removal officers in certain ICE districts routinely take illegal immigrants into custody from local jails to process for deportation, only to be told by management: “ ‘Hey, we don’t have any money for beds. You need to kick this guy out the backdoor,’ ” he said.
“I really believe that it’s a nationwide problem,” Crane said.