HIDALGO, TX - MAY 28: Special agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol question a woman while her vehicle is searched after she was stopped heading into Mexico at the Hidalgo border crossing on May 28, 2010 in Hidalgo, Texas. The inspection was part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) joint effort between ICE, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Customs and Border Patrol. The organizations are trying to slow the flow of guns, money and drugs from the United State into Mexico. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Several high-profile crimes committed by illegal immigrants in Prince William County, Virginia have prompted local officials to question federal immigration law. But now Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released a report that details why some illegal immigrants may have been let go.
According to the report, which was released because of lawsuits filed by Prince William County and conservative legal group Judicial Watch, new federal immigration policies could have kept illegal immigrants from release.
ICE has been under increasing pressure, especially in Virginia, after police say Carlos Montano killed a Benedictine nun while driving drunk. Montano, who is an illegal immigrant, is awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter. But the real fury was sparked when it was discovered that Montano had been arrested twice previously for drunk driving and once for reckless driving.
The newly released report states that it was the policy of ICE at the time of Montano’s first arrest to avoid holding illegal immigrants whenever possible because of lack of beds in holding cells. That has now changed, and ICE is now directed to focus on detaining illegal immigrants with criminal records or who pose a threat to public safety.
“Under the priorities outlined in this memorandum, Montano likely would have been detained for three reasons, namely that he was: (1) a convict; (2) a repeat offender; and (3) a demonstrated danger to public safety,” according to the report.
The report also states that ICE has dramatically increased the number of beds dedicated to holding illegal immigrants. In the Washington area alone, 500 beds have added. But the report also reminds officials that ICE still can’t hold every immigrant charged with a crime.
“Nationwide…ICE simply does not have the funding that would be required to detain all aliens charged with or convicted of DUI offenses,” the report states.
But the report still isn’t enough for many local officials and activists who say that it is full of excuses meant to cover for embarrassing gaps in federal immigration enforcement.
“Most Americans expect illegal aliens to be caught and deported. To use the excuse that 'We don't have enough beds' is so pathetic,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who accused the Obama administration has a “never-ending supply of reasons” it won't detain illegal immigrants.
Prince William County Executive Corey Stewart, who has criticized what he perceives as lax federal immigration enforcement, said in a statement Friday night the report leaves many unanswered questions. Stewart said the report “... indicates that ICE is, in fact, releasing dangerous criminal illegal aliens instead of deporting them.”