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Sheriffs: DHS Must Expand Categories of Criminal Aliens Eligible for Deportation

The Obama administration’s new “Priority Enforcement Program” will result in the release of thousands of criminal aliens back onto American streets, according to National Sheriffs’ Association executive director Jonathan Thompson and Jackson County, Texas Sheriff A.J. Louderback.

The Department of Homeland Security replaced the Secure Communities program with PEP in conjunction with the executive amnesty programs President Obama announced last November. Republican lawmakers in recent months have criticized move as another non-enforcement program and predicted serious consequences.

“Under PEP, countless criminal aliens who have managed to evade conviction will be released, endangering our communities. More crimes will be committed, and precious resources will be spent to re-apprehend these individuals, a process that significantly endangers the safety of your officers and agents,” a group of GOP senators wrote in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson last month.

In an op-ed published at the Hill Thursday, Thompson and Louderback reiterate the lawmakers concerns, calling the new program “Catch and Release 2.0.”

“Not only does PEP make the 48-hour holds of illegal immigrants nearly impossible,” the pair write, referring to an aspect of the scrapped Secure Communities Program,” it excludes thousands of criminal aliens whose crimes are — in the opinion of Washington bureaucrats, anyway — not serious enough to warrant their deportation.”

They noted that even when ICE seeks to detain an illegal immigrant, ICE must now simply “request” that the individual be held, a process the sheriffs argue could result in the release of more criminals.

Given their concerns  Thompson and Louderback are calling on Obama and DHS to reconsider PEP and be more proactive in seeking the arrests of illegal immigrants.

“In the interest of public safety, President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security need to go back to the drawing boards. If probable cause exists to arrest an illegal immigrant for a violation of law, the federal government has a responsibility to intervene, and to do so effectively,” they write.

Additionally, they say Obama should use his executive authority to direct DHS to broaden eligibility categories for deportation and engage in more information sharing with local authorities. They note that Congress should also increase federal reimbursements to local agencies that house criminal immigrants.

“[T]here is no reason these costs should be borne by local taxpayers,” they conclude.

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