Border State Sheriffs are responding to a report that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to engage in the largest one-time release of federal prisoners. 6,000 inmates will receive early release, 2,000 of which are “foreign citizens” who officials claim “will be quickly deported.” The release is set to occur between October 30th and November 2nd.
The Washington Post reported that the DOJ is releasing the prisoners in order to reduce overcrowding. The release is also intended to reduce the sentences of drug offenders who have received tough sentences over the past 30 years. According to the report, most of the inmates will be released to halfway houses or will be placed in home confinement. The prisoners will be put on supervised release later.
The mass release comes after the U.S. Sentencing Commission reduced the punishment for drug offenders convicted in the future and made the sentencing changes retroactive to those already in prison. The commission is an independent agency of the judicial branch whose principle purpose is to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal courts. The commission also works with Congress, the executive branch, and those in the public sector on federal criminal issues.
The Post reported that the change in sentencing guidelines could result in the release of 46,000 inmates in federal prison – a little less than half of the 100,000 drug offenders who qualify for early release. The report of 6,000 inmates being released is just the first wave of that release. An additional 8,550 inmates are eligible for release between November 1, 2015, and November 1, 2016.
Justice officials were also reported to claim that 2,000 inmates planned for the original release – one-third of the 6,000 total – “are foreign citizens who will be quickly deported.” Many of those will potentially be criminal illegal aliens.
Breitbart Texas spoke with Jackson County, Texas, Sheriff Aj (Andy) Louderback who said, “Law enforcement should always be concerned when this number of criminals will be released.” Louderback, who also serves as Legislative Director of the Sheriff’s Association of Texas added, “I am also concerned that although the federal government claims they will be deported, as many as 2,000 illegal aliens could be released into our communities.”
As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, new federal immigration policies are endangering our nation’s neighborhoods by releasing criminal aliens back into the community. Louderback has appeared with high-ranking officials in Texas, and on syndicated radio shows explaining “how immigration enforcement has been replaced across America with something called ‘PEP.’” “PEP” stands for “Priority Enforcement Program.”
PEP is a federal program which Louderback and other law enforcement officials say “endangers communities, rather than secures them, from the ravages of illegal immigrant crime.” The sheriff is talking to anyone who will listen about the program.
The PEP program has replaced a congressionally-mandated program that governed how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials dealt with criminal aliens. This program replaced the Secured Communities Program. The more aggressive 287(g) program has also been eliminated.
The PEP policy was released by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in November of 2014. In January, the program went into effect and Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby exclusively reported leaked training documents detailing how the program would be implemented. Darby dubbed the program, “Catch and Release 2.0.”
The Jackson County Sheriff says that the PEP program takes a select class of criminal aliens who are no longer being picked up by ICE even though they are in this country illegally. He said that Texas sheriffs are forced to let these illegal aliens out of county jails and into communities. He said the illegal aliens are able to stay in the country “under 14 categories in the ‘unless’ deportation exceptions within the PEP program.”
As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, these exceptions allow criminal aliens to stay in the states where:
- The criminal conviction occurred a long time ago;
- There are “extenuating circumstances” involving the offense;
- There are “Humanitarian issues” such as age, health, pregnancy, having a young child or seriously sick relative in the states, or you have community ties; or
- The person has family members living here.
These are just a few of the exceptions. Moreover, the exceptions under the PEP program are not exhaustive. As a general rule, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers who are in control of the process, have the authority to decide who is, or is not, deported.
Whether the federal government will apply these and other PEP exceptions to those released in the Justice Department’s release of 2,000 foreign citizens is a valid question. Moreover, ICE is a separate agency that is under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are both separate agencies. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is also an independent agency. Whether any federal branch of government will comply with what another agency has promised to do is another question, stress law enforcement officials.
Sheriff Louderback responded to the report that 2,000 of the 6,000 prisoners set to be released are “foreign citizens” that “will be quickly deported” by retorting, “Define what is ‘quickly.’” “Moreover,” he added, “because this federal administration will not follow the rule of law and has created this Priority Enforcement Program, who can guarantee they will follow the law and now deport these illegal aliens?”
He asked, “Are they going to disregard their own Priority Enforcement Program and deport these individuals?”
Louderback urges that by creating the PEP exceptions, the federal government is refusing to follow the federal immigration laws that are on the books.
Chambers County Sheriff Brian C. Hawthorne told Breitbart Texas, “As a Texas sheriff, I am concerned that the release of federal inmates is putting our communities at risk.”
“There is no question that local communities are not as safe under this current federal administration’s ‘Priority Enforcement’ program as they were a year ago with the ‘Secured Communities’ program,” he continued.
Smith County Sheriff Larry R. Smith told Breitbart Texas, “I am strongly in opposition of cutting the sentences of defendants from foreign countries, only to have them commit further crimes in the United States by once again breaching our porous borders. I believe the Justice Department should secure our borders prior to implementing this program.”
Arizona Sheriff Leon Wilmot, from Yuma County, responded to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas and said, “They have already proven that their PEP program does not work because they have already had two convicted murderers in our state. Jeh Johnson said that the whole purpose was to keep the worst of the worst off the streets. One of the murderers murdered their own child.”
“The PEP program is worthless.” the Arizona border sheriff said.
Deportations are at the lowest level in the last 12 months since 2006, and deportations of criminal illegal aliens have dropped to the lowest level since President Obama took office.
The immigrant population in the U.S. hit a record high 42.4 million in July 2014 according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center for Immigration Studies, as reported by Breitbart News.
This article has been updated with additional information.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.