Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona says some of the illegal immigrants recently released by the Homeland Security Department because of budget cuts might have committed serious crimes.
McCain sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday demanding information on the release of more than 2,000 immigration detainees.
McCain says there is a possibility some of the detainees had committed serious crimes such as smuggling, narcotics trafficking and child molestation.
McCain wants Napolitano to make public this month the criteria used to determine which detainees were released and how many had been convicted of serious crimes.
The states where immigrants were released include Arizona, California, Georgia and Texas.
McCain is heading a Republican effort to craft immigration legislation focused on border security.
The full letter is below:
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
In anticipation of automatic budget cuts due to sequestration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly released hundreds of immigrant detainees from ICE detention facilities around the country days before such cuts were to take place. While ICE officials maintain that the detainees released were "noncriminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories," local sources have raised the possibility that some of the detainees had committed serious crimes such as weapons offenses, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, forgery, aggravated assault against police officers, and child molestation.
The American people need to know that those recently-released detainees are being tracked to ensure that they will not present a future threat. More importantly, the American public needs to be confident that ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in fact did not release detainees who will be a danger to the public when it decided to meet its sequestration budget cuts through the release of these inmates.
In order to address those issues, I request answers to the following questions:
1. How many detainees were released in preparation for sequestration or after the announcement of sequestration and what criteria were used in determining which detainees to release?
2. Are plans in place to release additional detainees? If so, how many detainees will be released and what criteria will be used to determine which future detainees will be released?
3. How many of the congressionally mandated 34,000 detention beds are currently not being used due to budget sequestration?
4. Does DHS or ICE know the names, criminal records, and location of the criminal aliens that have been released? Has this information been shared with local law enforcement in the jurisdictions these detainees were released?
5. How many of the released criminal aliens are Level 2 Classification detainees, including, but not limited to, those convicted of:
i. Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Battery;
ii. Aggravated Child Abuse;
iii. Arson, Battery Law Enforcement Officer;
iv. Burglary (Armed), Extortion;
v. False Imprisonment;
vi. Importation or Trafficking of Controlled Substances;
vii. Manufacture of Explosives;
viii. Armed Robbery; or
ix. Sexual Battery.
6. Are illegal aliens that have been apprehended by Border Patrol being rejected at ICE detention facilities due to budget constraints stemming from sequestration?
7. What plans are in place to ensure illegal aliens are being detained and we do not return to the days of Border Patrol "catch and release?"
8. How did ICE evaluate the severity of past crimes in determining which criminal aliens would be released?
9. Who within the ICE chain of command has the authority to decide to release a particular criminal alien and what is the written policy limiting the officer's discretion?
Please provide a response in writing explaining ICE's actions and answering the questions raised above by no later than March 18, 2013. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
United States Senator
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.