The House Judiciary Subcommittee issued a subpoena Friday to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a list of undocumented and criminal immigrants who have been flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement but still remain at large.
Friday’s subpoena follows Wednesday’s 7-4 vote by the subcommittee to authorize the issuance of the subpoena. The vote earlier this week fell on party lines with Democrats arguing that the subpoena was premature because Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is cooperating with the committee.
However, the Republican chair of the subcommittee, Lamar Smith of Texas, said the subpoena was necessary because the Obama administration and DHS have been slow in responding to his request for the list. Smith asked for the information in August and had set an October 31 deadline for the list.
“For the past two months, the Department of Homeland Security has dragged their feet and stonewalled my request for information,” Rep. Smith said in a press release sent out Friday. “The Administration is wrongfully trying to keep crucial information from the American people. The American people have a right to know what crimes 300,000 immigrants have committed after ICE intentionally chose not to detain them.”
For the past two months, the Department of Homeland Security has dragged their feet and stonewalled my request for information.
- Lamar Smith, chair of House Judiciary Subcommittee
DHS spokesman Matt Chandler told Fox News Latino that the agency planned to provide the data requested by the subcommittee with or without a subpoena.
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“ICE’s enforcement approach is enhancing public safety in communities around the country,” Chandler said in an email statement. “DHS has implemented immigration enforcement priorities that focus limited resources on convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators, fugitives and recent entrants.”
He added that ICE removed a record 216,000 criminal aliens in the fiscal year 2011, an 89 percent increase over fiscal year 2008.
The requested information concerns the controversial Secure Communities program, which names and fingerprints people arrested as well as scans their information through a federal immigration database to check their legal status to be in the U.S. The program has met strong resistance from a number of states, including Illinois, New York and Massachusetts -- all of which have opted-out of the program.
In late October, Washington D.C. Vincent C. Gray mayor signed an executive order stating that the public-safety officials will not inquire into the immigration status of individuals or give information about immigration status to federal agencies except when that status pertains directly to a criminal investigation.
“The District is home to thousands of immigrants. If they are afraid to cooperate with authorities on criminal investigations because they fear it might endanger their presence in the United States or the presence of a loved one, then it endangers their public safety and that of our entire city,” Gray said.
Critics of the DHS program, including some local law enforcement officials, argue that undocumented immigrants are less likely to come forward as witnesses or collaborate with local authorities if they fear that their immigration information will be shared with the Federal government.
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.