Some Immigrants Are Re-Arrested 6 Times

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press
Monday, January 8, 2007; 9:21 PM

WASHINGTON -- Immigrants arrested for being in the United States illegally may have been charged up to six more times, for more serious crimes, after they were released by local authorities, new Justice Department data indicate.

Additionally, a separate report also issued Monday concludes that the number of illegal immigrants deported after being declared a felon is on the rise.

The Justice findings by department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine examined the criminal histories of 100 illegal immigrants arrested and then released by local and state authorities in 2004, the latest complete data available. Of the sample group of 100, according to the audit, 73 immigrants were later arrested a collective 429 times _ on charges ranging from traffic tickets to weapons and drug charges.

The data suggest "the rate at which released criminal aliens are re-arrested is extremely high," the audit noted. The report, parts of which were redacted, was required by Congress in 2005 and looked at how local and state authorities that receive Justice Department funding are working with the Homeland Security Department.

For years, the government was forced to release thousands of illegal immigrants who were caught in the United States because of not enough jail space and other resources. But last fall, with immigration as a key election-year priority, Homeland Security declared it would detain 99 percent of non-Mexican illegal immigrants until they could be returned to their home nations. The policy generally does not apply to Mexicans, who are almost immediately returned to Mexico after being stopped by Border Patrol agents.

The Justice audit, however, only looked at immigrants who were arrested and released by local and state authorities before they could be turned over to Homeland Security to be detained or deported. In all, 752 cities, counties and states participating in the program received $287 million in 2005, the audit noted.

Five states _ California, New York, Texas, Florida and Arizona _ received the bulk of the money, together pulling in more than $184 million.

Assistant Attorney General Regina B. Schofield, who oversees the Office of Justice Programs that controlled the funding, declined comment on the audit, noting that it does not contain any recommendations.

A separate report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University showed that the number of immigrants who were deported as "aggravated felons" doubled over the last 15 years, from 10,303 in 1992 to an estimated 23,065 in 2006.

But TRAC, which obtained the data from the Justice Department's Executive Office of Immigration Review, noted concerns that some of those immigrants never committed felonies.

"An individual can be declared an aggravated felon on the basis of a conviction on misdemeanor charges such as shoplifting," the TRAC report concluded.

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On the Net:

The Justice Department audit can be found at: http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/reports/OJP/a0707/final.pdf

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse: http://trac.syr.edu/


© 2007 The Associated Press