(CNSNews.com) - Sarah Saldana, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Congress on Wednesday that ICE cannot deport criminal aliens without the cooperation of their home countries -- and there's "a whole bunch" of countries that do not cooperate in taking back their criminals.
Saldana said Haiti, China, and India are three of those countries, but she couldn't remember the others. She told Sen. Richard Blumenthal she'd get him a list.
Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, last week asked the inspector-general of the Homeland Security Department to investigate ICE's failure to deport Jean Jacques, an illegal immigrant from Haiti, who is accused of murdering a 25-year-old Connecticut woman in June. At the time, Jacques was free after serving a 15-year prison term in the U.S. for attempted murder.
Three attempts by ICE to deport him, dating back to 2002, failed.
At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Blumenthal asked Saldana why "ICE failed to deport him as it should have done."
"I will just say, just like any of these situations where you have somebody assaulted or injured or murdered, worse -- it's tremendously disturbing," Saldana said.
She pointed to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, Zadvydas v. Davis, which said the United States may not indefinitely detain immigrants under deportation orders if their home country won't accept them.
"The Zadvydas decision requires us, even in post-custody, post-(deportation) order situations, to release a person if there's no legitimate basis for believing somebody will be able to be removed. Without a travel document to Haiti, this person would not have been able to be removed," Saldana said.
It's not a question of whether he had to be released, Blumenthal said. "It's a question of what was done to deport him. And why he is not back in Haiti and Casey Chadwick still alive. That's the real question here."
Blumenthal said he accepts that "some efforts were made" to get Jacques out of the country, "but they were abysmally and abhorrently inadequate. And much more could have been done, in my view. And I believe the inspector general investigation will demonstrate factually that much more could have been done. And I also want to know what broader problems this particular failing may reflect."
Saldana said she will cooperate with the IG investigation: "I think your concerns is, couldn't you have gone to the country and tried to make some efforts there locally? We did try to find family members of this person; we could not locate them."
Blumenthal said if the Obama administration can glean information about refugees coming into the country, it could have been done in Jacques' case as well.
"You know, I won't argue with you on how much more could have been done," Saldana told Blumenthal. "I will tell you that we have to rely on the country to accept those travel documents and to put them in a form that they will accept their national back. That's the frustration we have, is that there are a whole bunch of countries with which we have been trying to work, to turn them around on this issue, to get us travel documents for these people.
"Haiti does not, apparently, have the interest, the resources to assist us in doing that. And so we can't just drop them off without the country being in a position to accept them.
"And that's what -- I am as frustrated as you are with some of these countries that we have those difficulties with."
Blumenthal wasn't buying it:
"Apart from what Haiti is or is not willing to do, I maintain, and I think the inspector-general investigation will affirm, that much more could have been done by ICE. But if that's a problem, why haven't you come to the Congress, why haven't you gone to the State Department? Haiti receives a lot of aid from this country and it ought to be held accountable," the senator said.
Saldana said she has been to the State Department herself and met with "one of the representatives there who helps us with respect to these recalcitrant countries. We are making all kinds of efforts, the State Department can be most helpful in this, and I'm hoping that we can turn around some of these countries."
Blumenthal asked Saldana for a list of the other countries that refuse to cooperate with U.S. deportation attempts.
"Oh, there are a bunch of them, Sir, I can certainly provide you a list." She named China and India, then trailed off: "There are quite a few, the list is long. You can probably imagine some of them. Those that have very unstable governments, those that have cold relationships with us -- many of those countries are not cooperating with us."
Blumenthal said he would appreciate a list as well as an explanation of what efforts have been made by ICE and by other government agencies "to change those practices that resist taking back criminals who commit murder in our communities or other crimes -- because they have no business being here, and they give a bad name to all of the programs that you administer. They undermine the credibility and legitimacy of our entire immigration effort. So I look forward to the investigation report from the inspector-general."