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Grassley Blasts Administration for “Misleading” American People on Release of Illegal Immigrants

Senator Charles Grassley
Senator Charles Grassley

From Sen. Charles Grassley –

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley took to the Senate floor today to condemn the Obama Administration’s misleading information about its release of thousands of illegal immigrants.

The Obama administration initially said that a few hundred illegal immigrants had been released from custody, but the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the number was actually more than 2,200 illegal immigrants who had been released, including up to 10 “level one” offenders, which includes some of the most violent offenders.

Last week, Grassley introduced an amendment to the Continuing Appropriations Bill that is being debated in the Senate.  The amendment would have required the Department of Homeland Security to provide Congress with information about the illegal immigrants who have been released for what the administration says is budget considerations.  The release of the illegal immigrants happened weeks before the sequester took effect.  The Democratic Majority Leader objected to a vote on Grassley’s amendment. Grassley said that the Democrat majority’s refusal to allow a vote on his amendment was an attempt to help the administration cover up its mistakes.

Here is the text of Grassley’s prepared statement when he asked to bring his amendment to a vote.  The video of the statement can be found here.


Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley
Grassley Amendment to the Continuing Appropriations Bill
Justification for the Release of 2000 Illegal Immigrants
Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Mr. President, at an appropriate time I’m going to ask for some consideration of an amendment of mine, amendment number 76.  My amendment would hold the Obama administration accountable for its recent decision to release more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants from detention centers across the country in the past month.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement claimed they were releasing these people because it needed to reduce its average daily detention population of about 34,000 people.  This is a congressionally mandated requirement.

They claim they had to reduce the detention population for budgetary reasons. Week after week agents were tasked to release so many individuals.  At first the Department of Homeland Security claimed that it only released a few hundred people.  However, last week the Director of
Immigration and Customs Enforcement admitted that the administration had misled the American people by confessing that over 2,200 aliens were actually released.

They continue to stand by the excuse that budget cuts were the reason for releasing these individuals.  Simply blaming budget reduction as a means to turn a blind eye towards national security of the American people is a very dangerous plan and one that calls into question the department’s preparation for sequestration, particularly when you consider that months before sequestration the Office of Management and Budget put out an order to all departments that national security, law enforcement, safety and health should be a top priority. So keeping criminals off the streets of the United States should be a top priority, according to the Office Management and Budget.

I want an accounting for it.  That’s what my amendment does.  A simple accounting for why they were released.

What’s even more disturbing is the fact that the department had billions of unobligated funds from the past two years that could have been put into protecting the American people.

On February 27, I sent a request to Secretary Napolitano questioning the decisions of the department.  The letter was cosigned by Chairman Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee.  It was an attempt to better understand how the department will better confront sequestration and reduce operational challenges that could affect the life, safety and health of the American people.  The same life, health and safety of the American people that the Office of Management and Budget said was a priority during sequestration.

Now you know what?  So often, as what we find from this administration, and even found in previous Republican administrations, letters that are embarrassing go unanswered.  Unfortunately, this is not unusual. About a dozen of my letters to the Secretary of Homeland Security on just the immigration issue have gone unanswered.

There is no respect for congressional oversight. It’s very frustrating. We’re on the cusp of undertaking a massive reform of our immigration system, yet getting answers to the most basic questions seems to be an impossible operation.  Time and again we have seen that this administration refuses to be held accountable.  And, what we want is just information.  But shouldn’t the people know who’s being turned out on the streets that have been held in confinement for a long period of time?

I fear what will become of the President’s promise of transparency if and when we do pass an immigration bill.  Enacting a bill is one part of the process.  Implementing the law is another part of the process.  If we don’t have faith in this administration now, what about trust for the future?

My amendment would require the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to submit weekly reports to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Judiciary.  The reports will be required to contain detailed budget on how ICE will maintain the 34,000 detention bed occupancy levels authorized by Congress.  It also requires ICE to provide the number of illegal immigrants released from detention as well as the following information: the conviction or charge for which they were detained, fugitive status, the existence of prior deportation orders and the terms of release.  My amendment has been cosponsored by Senators Inhofe, Vitter, Boozman, Roberts, Coats, Collins, and McConnell.

Yesterday, the director of ICE, Mr. Morton, testified in the House. Chairman Goodlatte said his testimony raised more questions. I’ll put a press release in the record that expresses this.

Last week Mr. Morton said they released ten “level one” offenders. These are people convicted of violent crimes. They are repeat drunk drivers, as an example. Yesterday he said they only released eight, but he also said they were trying to relocate them and bring them back in.

If you’ve got these dangerous people out on the streets, the public ought to know about it.  And so I suspect that when I’m asking unanimous consent now, that the other side will object to my amendment.  I don’t know why they want to go to such lengths to protect this administration when all we want is simple information. Just simple information.   We’re just saying the public ought to know when you’ve got violent people out on the streets.  We ought to know where they are and why they were put out there.

I say the option of not allowing this amendment to have a vote is indefensible.

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