|For Immediate Release
July 7, 2011
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
NOTE: The House Judiciary Committee will only hear opening statements for the markup of H.R. 1932, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act, today. The markup is expected to resume sometime next week.
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Markup of H.R. 1932, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act
Chairman Smith: In the 2001 decision of Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrants ordered removed could not be detained more than six months if there was no reasonable likelihood of their being deported.
According to recent data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Zadvydas and a companion decision have resulted in the release of nearly 4,000 dangerous criminal immigrants each year since 2008. These Supreme Court decisions have inadvertently created a safe haven for criminals.
Why can’t we deport immigrants after they have been ordered removed? In 2006 the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General reported that thousands of immigrants could not be removed because some countries frustrate the removal process.
The Inspector General found that nearly 134,000 immigrants with pending or final orders of removal had been released from 2001 to 2004. The Inspector General found that these immigrants were unlikely to ever be repatriated if ordered removed because of the unwillingness of their countries of origin to provide them the necessary travel documents.
Thousands of criminal immigrants ordered removed have been released. This includes an immigrant who was implicated in a mob-related multiple homicide. It also includes an immigrant who shot a New York State Trooper after being released.
In at least two other tragic instances, criminal immigrants released because of Zadvydas have gone on to commit murder.
Huang Chen was ordered removed for assaulting Qian Wu. China refused to grant Huang the necessary documents and he was released as a result of Zadvydas. He was again released after another assault and another removal order. He went on to violently murder Ms. Wu.
Abel Arango served time in prison for armed robbery. Since Cuba wouldn't take him back, he was released from DHS detention. He then went on to shoot Ft. Myers, Florida, police officer Andrew Widman in the face. Officer Widman never had the opportunity to draw his weapon. The husband and father of three died at the scene.
Just because a criminal immigrant cannot be returned to their home country does not mean they should be freed into our communities. Dangerous criminal immigrants need to be detained.
H.R. 1932, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act, provides a statutory basis for DHS to detain as long as necessary specified dangerous immigrants who cannot be removed. The bill authorizes DHS to detain them beyond six months in circumstances such as where release would threaten the safety of the community and the alien is an aggravated felon or has committed a crime of violence.
Aliens may be detained for periods of six months at a time, and the period of detention may be renewed. The bill provides for judicial review of detention decisions in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
H.R. 1932 also corrects a number of ill-considered detention decisions handed down by the 9th Circuit. The Circuit has ruled that criminal immigrants in the middle of protracted removal proceedings have to be released from detention. This gives criminal immigrants an additional incentive to engage in delaying tactics in court.
The 9th Circuit ignores the hard-earned lesson that when immigrants in removal proceedings are not detained, they abscond and become fugitives. That is why over half a million fugitives are now roaming our streets. This legislation allows DHS to detain criminal immigrants in removal proceedings.
The Keep Our Communities Safe Act is desperately needed. We cannot continue to let dangerous criminal immigrants slip through the cracks of our legal justice system.
While we are too late to prevent some tragedies, let us act today and next week to prevent many more. We have a responsibility to make sure the laws of this land protect Americans rather than endanger them.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.