ICE Director Struggles to Explain ‘Dramatic Decline’ in Criminal Alien Removals

screen cap of Sarah Saldana testimony 12/2/15

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana struggled to explain why the deportations of criminal aliens from the U.S. have declined to nearly half the level removed in 2011.

“I would like my hands on every criminal alien who’s in the country illegally and to be able to remove them. This is what I have done as a prosecutor and this is what I did as a United States attorney. Neither I nor the women and men who work for ICE would let go of a criminal alien if they had a basis for it a final order of removal and the ability to remove them,” Saldana testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The ICE Director was responding to questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who pressed the agency head on the “dramatic reduction” in criminal removals despite the Obama administration’s claim that their enforcement priorities

“According to the information we’ve obtained in 2011 your agency, ICE, removed 150,000 criminal aliens from the interior,” Sessions said. “In Fiscal Year ’12 it dropped to 135,000, in Fiscal Year ’13 it dropped to 110,000, in Fiscal Year ’14 to 86,000. And in Fiscal Year ’15, this year, we believe the number is only around 63,000.”

Saldana argued that 59 percent of the removals were criminals that were part of the administration’s priorities.

“Those three priorities I mentioned in my opening statement, which are mostly criminals. And, again, sir, once again 59 percent of all of those that were removed were criminal aliens. That is a record-breaking percentage of the people that we removed,” Saldana said.

Sessions responded:

“Forgive me if that doesn’t make me feel good because the numbers are dropping dramatically. So, you’re dropping down on other removals and you’re defining upward what you consider to be criminal and you’re saying it makes up a larger percentage of the very much smaller pie. Isn’t that correct?”

“Yes sir,” Saldana responded, but noted that the removals are due to more “effective enforcement” and fewer people attempting to cross the border.


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