WASHINGTON — US politicians Wednesday clashed over how many undocumented migrants who have may committed crimes are free in the United States pending deportation — a key figure for gauging the success of immigration policies.
Republican House leaders in early November asked the Obama administration to hand over the names and details of about 300,000 illegal immigrants freed since 2008 and who may have committed crimes.
Republican Elton Gallegly stressed there was a need to determine how dangerous a person is before they are set free.
But an official with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said he was not aware of any figures.
“I’m not familiar with the figure you released, 300,000 criminal aliens back on the streets. I can tell you we’ve removed more criminal illegals last year than ever before. We’re working at almost full capacity in terms of removals,” ICE official Gary Mead told the hearing.
“It would be extremely rare for us to knowingly let a serious criminal offender walk loose in the community,” he stressed.
The federal government recently said it would review pending deportation cases to prioritize those who are deemed dangerous.
An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. And immigration is a major issue ahead of the presidential elections in November 2012.
Republicans, who generally take a tougher tack on enforcing penalties for illegal immigrants, have slammed the ICE’s current policy priorities.
Mead said President Barack Obama’s administration has deported record numbers of undocumented people, about 400,000 last year.