The Department of Homeland Security is trying to hunt down 481 "fugitive illegals" from dangerous countries -- including aliens from four nations designated as state sponsors of terror -- who were arrested and placed in government custody but subsequently released with the United States.
Letting such fugitives loose appears to be routine DHS policy. The releases took place over three years from 2007 to 2009.
According to a CNSNews.com investigation, the missing fugitives were discovered by searching an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database. The website used a Freedom of Information Act filing to obtain the database.
CNSNews reports nearly 200 of the 481 fugitives are from four nations designated as state sponsors of terror: Cuba (137 fugitives), Iran (29 fugitives), Sudan (14) fugitives, and Syria (13 fugitives). While Cubans who reach America are automatically eligible for refugee status, their eligibility can be revoked if they are convicted of a crime.
Other illegals released came from "countries of interest" including Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia.
ICE declares someone a fugitive when two conditions are met: A final order has been issued for their deportation, and they have eluded apprehension.
News of the missing illegals comes at a bad time for the Obama administration, which is trying to reassure voters that it intends to secure the border.
On Friday, the president signed a bill meant to bolster border security. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano heralded the legislation, which provides funding for 1,000 additional border patrol agents, as evidence that the Obama administration has "added more technology, manpower, and resources to the border than ever before."
So why would authorities release 481 illegals from potentially dangerous countries back inside the United States? The Department of Homeland Security did not return a Newsmax request for comment Friday. But ICE spokeswoman Gillian Brigham told CNSNews.com that it is impossible to hold all the illegals who are processed.
“On any given day," Brigham told the Web site, "the immigration detention system has about 32,000 beds available for people going through immigration proceedings. There are 1.6 million people going through some kind of immigration court proceeding. So you can’t detain everyone.”
Brigham's explanation appears to echo concerns raised recently by the ICE agents' union, which sent a "no confidence" letter to Ice Director John Morton.
The letter stated: "Criminal aliens openly brag to ICE officers that they are taking advantage of the broken immigration system and will be back in the United States within days to commit crimes, while United States citizens arrested for the same offenses serve prison sentences."
Janice L. Kephart, director of National Security Policy for the Center for Immigration Studies, tells Newsmax that release of the 481 fugitives is routine based on current ICE guidelines that Morton has established.
"Under the priorities for immigration enforcement, these guys would only have been held if there was sufficient national security information on them," Kephart says.
Asked what it would take for an illegal alien to remain in ICE custody, Kephart replied: "You have to kill somebody, is basically what it comes down to. It has to be a violent crime right now."
She added that 96 percent of all illegals detained by federal authorities are subsequently released.
Homeland security expert James Carafano of The Heritage Foundation says determining whether the 481 fugitives are a threat is difficult. But he suggests the administration's border-security rhetoric doesn't match the reality.
"The truth is this administration is desperate to get amnesty by any means they can," he tells Newsmax. "And if pretending to be tough on enforcement will do that, they'll do that. Because at the end of the day what they really want is 11 million new Democratic voters."
Carafano says he doesn't question the administration's intentions to stop the next 9/11 attack. But he says Obama officials believe they can both thwart terrorism and take steps toward amnesty.
"They play fast and loose with immigration enforcement, thinking they can stop the next terrorist attack, and at the same time think that they're going to find a way to give amnesty to 11 million people and get all these voters," says Carafano. "And they sleep at night and don't have a problem with that."
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