About 60,000 illegal immigrants protected from deportation have been arrested but allowed to remain in the United States, including 10 accused of murder, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.
The numbers cover the so-called Dreamers, illegal immigrants who are allowed to work in the U.S. and are shielded from deportation under an Obama administration program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
L. Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told “Fox & Friends” exclusively that the 59,786 arrests—about 8 percent of DACA recipients—fell into categories ranging from “driving-related” offenses to drug-related crimes.
“You could be arrested a whole lot of times and still get DACA,” Cissna said on the show Monday morning. “The data we’re putting out is only arrests, so presumably those people who had murder arrests, rape arrests—that type of seriousness—either got acquitted, charges were dropped or they plead something down, I would hope.”
Of the DACA recipients arrested, 53,792 were arrested before their most recent request for a”grant of deferred action” was approved, Fox News reported, and 7,814 were arrested after their request was approved.
About 4,500 of those with a “prior” arrest faced allegations of assault or battery; 830 were accused of sex crimes—including rape, sexual abuse, or indecent exposure; and 95 were arrested on warrants for kidnapping, human trafficking, or false imprisonment, Fox reported.
More than half of DACA applicants with more than one arrest—54.8 percent—will continue to be approved for protection against deportation unless they are convicted of a crime that falls under the DACA guidelines, Cissna told Fox.
Cissna said officials released the information to inform Congress and the public because of multiple inquiries regarding alleged criminal activities by the population of roughly 700,000 protected under DACA.
Cissna’s agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The announcement comes as Congress considers two Republican-sponsored immigration bills.
Both bills contain provisions for individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are supported by President Donald Trump, USA Today reported.
The first bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., aims to extend the renewal time for DACA protection from every two years to every six years. The second bill, from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would provide a path to citizenship for “Dreamers” as well as $25 billion to build Trump’s promised border wall.
The data from Homeland Security officials doesn’t indicate, however, how many DACA recipients were convicted of a crime that should disqualify them from the program.
To be denied U.S. residency after reapplying every two years for a “grant of deferred action” on deportation, an applicant must have been convicted of a felony, three or more isolated misdemeanors, or one significant misdemeanor.
Citizenship and Immigration Services defines “significant misdemeanor” as one where an individual is convicted and imprisoned for less than a year but over five days, and on a list of more serious offenses such as drug distribution or trafficking, burglary, or “driving under the influence.”
Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, clarified to The Daily Signal how so many arrested “Dreamers” could maintain U.S. residence.
“Basically, the answer is threefold,” Arthur said in a phone interview. “Even though they have a conviction, it may not be a felony or misdemeanor as USCIS was defining the term. The second is that USCIS’s most recent numbers included individuals arrested, not convicted.”
“Lastly, some of them may have fallen through the cracks—like any bureaucratic situation with [a large amount of people], you are bound to have people fall through the cracks.”
President Barack Obama went around Congress and imposed DACA in 2012 through executive action. Trump intends to end the program and has asked Congress to agree on a replacement through law, but that has yet to happen.
In a commentary for The Daily Signal on “myths” about DACA beneficiaries, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, wrote:
The Obama administration did not check the background of each DACA beneficiary, despite a requirement that they have no felony convictions and pose no threat to national security. Only a few randomly selected DACA applicants were ever actually vetted.
“Given the fact that DACA wasn’t an immigration bill, the effect it will have is unclear,” Arthur said of Cissna’s announcement. “But it’s important since Congress set parameters [on who is allowed in the country]. Going forward, any bill should look at criminal conviction numbers rather than changing the standard [each time], unless Congress wants to change [parameters] across the board.”