Federal immigration authorities on Monday refused to identify the seven convicted murderers with Atlanta-area addresses that they released during the last fiscal year, citing privacy reasons.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also could not immediately say why they were released or identify the charges for which they were convicted.
But on Monday the agency referred to records detailing a variety of reasons why they may have been freed from custody during the fiscal year ending in September. In an Aug. 15 letter to Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ICE said it released 169 people with homicide-related convictions nationwide during the last fiscal year. Of those, according to ICE, 154 were freed as a result of federal court orders or because of a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Called Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court ruling prohibits ICE from indefinitely detaining people who cannot be deported. ICE is unable to deport some people because their home countries refuse to take them back or delay issuing them travel documents, sometimes for months. China, India and Iran are among the countries that have been slow to issue such paperwork, a top ICE official told Congress in 2011.
Channel 2 Action News first reported on the release of the seven people with Atlanta-area addresses Friday. ICE’s letter to Grassley identifies the ZIP codes for their last known addresses. Those codes match Atlanta, College Park, Doraville, Lawrenceville, Mableton, Newnan and Norcross.
In all, ICE released 36,007 convicted criminals nationwide during the last fiscal year. The agency told Grassley it had no discretion for the release of many of them and that they were freed from custody through bond, orders of recognizance, orders of supervision, alternatives to detention, and parole.
On April 22, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent ICE a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act for records about the criminals it has released in recent years. ICE officials said they are still working on the newspaper’s request.
In his letter to Grassley, Thomas Winkowski, ICE’s principal deputy assistant secretary, said his agency would start requiring senior-level supervisors to approve the release of any “potentially dangerous individuals.”
“Ensuring that our enforcement policies and procedures are best suited to protect national security and public safety is paramount,” Winkowski wrote.