There is a growing clamor for new congressional inquiries into
how the Immigration and Naturalization Service recklessly releases illegal
aliens like sniper suspect Lee Malvo -- and then watches them disappear to
commit brutal crimes against American citizens.
Please, no more hearings. What we need now is action from the
White House, not another redundant confab on Capitol Hill.
A year ago this month, the investigations subcommittee of the
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee convened an eerily prescient hearing
on exactly the kinds of policies that led to illegal alien Malvo's quick and
easy release -- despite the Border Patrol's clear warning that Malvo and his
mother were "likely to abscond."
On Nov. 13, 2001, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chaired the hearing
on the INS's deadly detention and deportation practices. Levin's tough
questions are worth quoting at length.
First, Sen. Levin summarized the problem:
"If the Border Patrol decides to detain a person or set a bond
to help assure that a person shows up at the hearing, the INS deportation
office can revise that decision and order the person released on a lower
bond or on his or her own recognizance. To be released on your own
recognizance means that you are released on your promise that you will
appear at the scheduled hearing. There is no bond.
"(T)he Border Patrol and the INS release on their own
recognizance a significant number of people who are arrested for illegal
entry, even though it is clear that most won't show up at their removal
hearing. That means that most people who get caught and arrested for illegal
entry . . . are allowed to move at will in this country with no constraints
other than a written instruction to appear at a hearing that is likely to
result in their removal from this country, and that is absurd."
Next, Sen. Levin demanded answers. He asked Michael Pearson, the
INS's executive associate commissioner for field operations, to tell him how
many illegal aliens released on their own recognizance after being
apprehended by the Border Patrol fail to show up for hearings. Pearson's
"I don't know."
When Sen. Levin asked Pearson to simply tell him how many
illegal aliens arrested in 2001 in one region of the country -- the Detroit
sector of the Border Patrol -- had actually shown up for their hearings,
Levin was told:
"The INS doesn't know."
Sen. Levin pressed Pearson on the lack of any INS requirement to
conduct criminal background checks on illegal aliens before releasing them
on their own recognizance. "Do you know in how many cases where people are
released on their own requirement, approximately, there is no criminal
background check?" Pearson's reply:
"I do not know, Senator."
Sen. Levin tried again. He asked Pearson: "(Y)ou don't know in
what percentage of the cases where people are released on their recognizance
that there is a criminal background check(?)" Pearson responded:
"Senator, I don't have that data. No, I do not."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, noted that even after the INS is
alerted to no-shows, "INS agents are not routinely sent out to locate the
illegal aliens who fail to appear." The catch-and-release scheme is also
available to asylum seekers and to illegal aliens who have no verifiable
identities, addresses or contact information as required by law. In 1999,
some INS district offices released nearly 80 percent of the asylum seekers
pending their asylum hearing; as many as one-third of these asylum seekers
failed to appear for their asylum hearings, according to Sen. Collins.
In addition, the INS continues its "voluntary departure"
program, letting thousands of illegal aliens go free with timid instructions
to leave the country within 30 days -- without any process for verifying
whether or not they actually leave.
Border Patrol agent Mark Hall, who works along the Detroit
sector, cut to the chase: "When illegal aliens are released, we send a
disturbing message. The aliens quickly pass along the word about how easy it
is to enter this country illegally and remain here. This practice is
devastating to a sound border enforcement strategy."
Nine months later, 11 people lay dead and 3 gravely wounded
after the release of illegal alien Lee Malvo. The know-nothings at INS are
running for cover.
What is President Bush going to