ICE: 167,527 Criminal Aliens Loose in U.S.A.

By Brittany M. Hughes | March 19, 2015 | 12:16 PM EDT

Illegal immigrants file into a U.S. Border Patrol facility in Tucson, Ariz. (Associated Press)

( - According to weekly detention and departure reports from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there were 167,527 non-detained convicted criminal aliens in the United States as of Jan. 26 of this year, a congressional hearing revealed Thursday.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah.) read the statistic aloud Thursday durin a hearing examining ICE's priorities and procedures for removing criminal aliens currently living in the United States.

“In that report, it said that there are 167,527 non-detained, final-order convicted criminals on the loose in the United States,” Chaffetz pointed out while questioning ICE Director Sarah Saldana.

“These are people that are here illegally, get caught, convicted, and you release back out into the public,” he said, adding that some of the crimes committed by those who have been released include homicide, sex crimes, child pornography, drunk driving, robbery and kidnapping.

The federal government announced Wednesday that ICE had released about 30,000 convicted criminal aliens from ICE custody in 2014 alone, according to The Washington Times, which first reported the statistic.

As reported in February, ICE admitted to releasing 36,007 criminal aliens from the agency’s custody in Fiscal Year 2013, including those convicted of sex crimes, homicide, drunk driving, kidnapping and robbery. Of these, 1,000 went on to commit new crimes ranging from assault with a deadly weapon and lewd acts with a child to aggravated assault, robbery, and hit-and-run.

During the hearing, Saldana said that ICE releases criminal aliens back into the community based on the agency’s “discretionary control.”

“Madam Director, if you’re a criminal, will you be deported?” Chaffetz asked Saldana.

“Those are the people we’re looking for, yes,” Saldana responded.

“But they’ve been in your detention. They’ve been detained. I mean they were convicted. They were…were they deported?” Chaffetz pressed.

“They were in the process of being deported,” Saldana claimed. “Everyone in our detention facilities is in the process of being deported, chairman.”

“Well that’s not true. I mean, you regularly release them back out into the public before they get deported, correct?” Chaffetz continued.

Of the roughly 36,000 criminal aliens released by ICE in 2013, about 22,000 were released under ICE’s “discretionary control,” she estimated.

“So you don’t automatically deport them, then?” Chaffetz asked.

“Automatically, sir? No,” Saldana responded, adding that “the law gives us that discretion.”

“And so when we say, if you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported, that’s not necessarily true,” Chaffetz said.

“It is true, sir. It’s in--”

“After they get released back into the public for untold number of times?” Chaffetz asked.

“It does happen. It does happen, yes, and that’s exactly what we’re here to do,” Saldana admitted.

“What does happen? That they get released?” Chaffetz asked.

“Yes,” Saldana said, “Even criminals that are released.

“Those people were released under the laws of the United States,” Saldana added, explaining that according to “due process,” it can easily take “months and even years to deport folks.”