Government Let 2,837 Immigrant Sex Offenders Go Free Because They Could Not Be Deported, GAO Report Finds

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According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week, as of September 2012, the government had to release 59,347 immigrants targeted for deportation because no one else would take them.

But the alarming news in the GAO study was that about 5 percent of them, 2,837, were convicted of a sex offense.

Under a 2001 Supreme Court decision, when the government decides that an immigrant needs to be deported, generally for committing a criminal offense, immigration officials have to make sure that the person has a place to go. If no other country will take the person after six months, the government has to let the person go, albeit under official supervision.

The Supreme Court decision, ‪Zadvydas v. Davis‬, came down in 2001. By a 5-4 majority, the court decided that holding a person in custody indefinitely violates the Fifth Amendment’s protection against imprisonment without due process of law. In other words, under the Constitution, the government can’t throw you in prison and keep you there forever just because it wants to.

When the government holds an immigrant for longer than six months without deporting that person, that’s illegal imprisonment, the court ruled.

The court decision applied only to documented immigrants. What the government can and can’t do with undocumented immigrants is another matter entirely.

The GAO also did a survey of immigrants who have been released under the Zadvydsas rules and found that, based on random sample, 5 percent of the sex offenders released had not properly registered. The study, the GAO said, had a margin of error of about 8 percent.

But if the study is accurate, that means about 150 of the released immigrant sex offenders as of September 2012, did not properly register with law enforcement in their communities, as released sex offenders are required to do.

“I’m surprised that only 5 percent of them are not properly registered,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the conservative Center For Immigration Studies (CIS) told the Washington Times. The CIS is a think tank whose mission is to lower the number of immigrants admitted to the United States.

Not all sex offenders are required to register. For example, a person convicted of “operating a sexually oriented business” is not required to register. Of the sex offenders surveyed by the GAO, 22 percent were not required to register at all.

“The GAO report is focusing on the more important thing, which is that it’s the criminal justice system that’s responsible for these people and ICE should be cooperating with the criminal justice system,” Judy Rabinowitz, deputy director at the American Civil Liverties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told the Washington Times.

SOURCES: Washington TimesCNS News, General Accounting Office, Cornell University