Conyers: Many Imprisoned Illegals Let Go by ICE ‘Had One or Two Misdemeanors Only’

By Penny Starr | March 19, 2013 | 4:40 PM EDT

John Morton, director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testified about the recent release of 2, 228 illegal aliens from detention at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on March 19, 2013. ( Starr)

( – Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) defended the recent release of 2,228 incarcerated illegal aliens, saying that only 467 of them had been convicted of a misdemeanor “or two.”

“We learned at a recent hearing before the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that 72 percent of the people released had no criminal record at all,” Conyers said Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton testified that the releases were done because of federal budget cuts (sequestration) required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

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“Another 21 percent had convictions for one or two misdemeanors only,” said Conyers, who is the ranking member on the committee.

Among those 2,228 individuals, ICE initially released eight Level 1 individuals, or those convicted of “serious crimes,” which include homicide, drug trafficking, an aggravated felony and those who pose a threat to national security.

At the hearing, Morton said that four of those eight individuals have since been taken back into custody. For the remaining four, Morton only confirmed that one of them was a 68-year-old man who has been a legal permanent resident for 44 years and was determined not to be a threat to public safety.

In his prepared remarks, Conyers praised Morton for releasing the detainees.

“It should tell us something that in a three-week period Director Morton identified more than 2,000 detainees who would not pose any danger to the public if they were released,” Conyers said.

Morton, however, said the decision was made by ICE’s chief financial officer, Radha Sekar, and Gary Mead, the chief of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.