Debate over ICE's release of criminal detainees continues

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by Marie Saavedra

azfamily.com

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 9:35 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 20 at 10:42 AM

PHOENIX -- Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said the federal government isn't helping him do his job of keeping the public safe. He's angry, saying the release of several dozen ICE detainees due to budget cuts included dangerous criminals.

"For the federal government to release these people into our communities without notifying law enforcement and still refusing to this hour to give me or any sheriff or police chief this information is outrageous!" Babeu said.

On Fox News Monday, Gov. Jan Brewer accused ICE of not identifying who these people are.

"It just simply is not right," she said. "We need good solid information."

So we asked ICE for more information and here's what we know about those released. In Arizona, 342 detainees were let go. Only one person is a level one criminal, convicted of a serious crime such as drug trafficking or aggravated felonies. ICE says they know who that is, and they're tracking that person. Thirty are level two criminals with single felony charges, 91 are level threes with up to two misdemeanors. The majority, 220 people, are not criminals.

"Seventy percent of individuals released had no criminal record at all," said ICE Director John Morton, testifying before the Appropriations Committee last week.

In Washington, Morton asked critics to trust their choices on who to let go.

"Every single one of these, Mr. Chairman, we took individual officers in the field, made a call and I'm confident that if I were to share these offenses with you, you would be better reassured we are not willy-nilly releasing level one offenders," Morton said.

ICE says county sheriffs shouldn't worry because those criminals let go have all served their sentences, and ICE agents are tracking them even during this release.

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