WASHINGTON (AP) – The Homeland Security Department is working on an automated system to notify state and local authorities when an immigrant with a serious criminal history is released into their jurisdictions, according to a letter from a pair of Texas lawmakers.
In a letter sent Monday to acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Winkowski, Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Democrat Rep. Beto O'Rourke said they were told about the automated notification system by a senior ICE official in late October. ICE is also considering adding notifications for victims, the pair wrote.
The letter did not provide details of the how the notification system would work or when it will be launched.
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have been critical of the agency's decision to release convicted criminals facing deportation from immigration jails.
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During the 2013 budget year, ICE released 36,007 criminal immigrants who were facing deportation, including those accounting for 193 homicide and 426 sexual assault convictions, according to ICE statistics. All of the immigrants released from immigration jail had finished their criminal jail sentences and still face deportation.
Cornyn and O'Rourke wrote to Winkowski with a variety of questions about how ICE decides which immigrants with records should be released and when. Among other things the lawmakers asked the agency to explain how it categorizes immigrants based on criminal histories.
ICE has said in the past that it is forced by court rulings and other rules to release some immigrants with records, including those whose home countries refuse to provide travel documents. The agency said about 72 percent of the criminals released from immigration jails last year were so-called mandatory releases.