Supreme Court decision allows convicted immigrants to be released

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PHOENIX --  They're in the United States on a green card but once they become convicted felons, many wait years to be deported.

3TV is exposing a controversial ruling that allows thousands of convicted immigrants to be released every year.
There is no doubt, Marek Zochowski is serious about ping pong. You'd probably never guess looking at him playing a recent tournament that the polish immigrant is a convicted felon who served ten years for manslaughter.

The victim is his wife, Lisa Zochowski.

"I just think if he did it once, he'll do it again," said Lisa Zochowski's only sibling, Dan DeWeerdt.

Marek Zochowski was convicted following Lisa's disappearance on December 27, 1990. Yet two decades later, Lisa's body has yet to be recovered which has left a hole in DeWeerdt's heart.

"He got caught yeah, he got convicted, but she's still missing," said DeWeerdt.

If that's not frustrating enough, DeWeerdt was shocked to learn what happened after Zochowski served his sentence. Rather than be deported to Poland, Immigration and Customs Enforcement place him on supervised release. Basically allowing him to go on with life, even take up ping pong.

"I try to keep it out of my head, it just gets me upset," said DeWeerdt.

Jon Feere is a legal analyst for the Center of Immigration Studies.

"It raises questions of public safety for example. These people should not be released back out onto our streets and the White House should be doing a better job negotiating with these countries in an effort to keep these individuals either in jail or return to their home countries immediately," said Freere.

According to Feere, Zochowski is among 4,000 convicted immigrants released every year. Thanks to a Supreme Court case called Zadvydas [vs. Davis], which is a due-process ruling essentially limiting the time convicted immigrants can be detained.

"The ruling by the Supreme Court effectively puts U.S. immigration policy in the hands of foreign governments because now foreign governments can simply deny repatriation of their foreign nationals and effectively release them back out into U.S. society," Feere said.

The United States has the authority to prevent it.

"The White House can basically threaten foreign countries to stop issuing visas to all of their nationals if they refuse to take their alien back home," Feere pointed out.

But we don't. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano admitted that when pressed on the issue during a House Judiciary Congressional Committee hearing.

"How many have you recommended under Section 243(d)," Republican Rep. Sandy Adams of Florida asked Napolitano.

"We have not - what we have done is work with - there are countries that systemically refuse to accept their aliens back," Secretary Napolitano responded.

"So you're telling me you have not done any," Rep Adams said.

"Not that I am aware of," Secretary Napolitano responded.

"Public safety has to come first and the White House should be immediately negotiating to return these individuals home when its clear they have no right of entry into the United States," Feere contends.

Meanwhile, DeWeerdt focuses his energy on healing. Even 22 years later, he is still hopeful Zochowski will come forward and reveal where he put Lisa's remains.

"It would be nice to have a place in the cemetery for her with a headstone and a place to visit. So she has a place, a place to be remembered," DeWeerdt stated.

ICE confirmed Zochowski was finally deported in May of 2012. And while he didn't commit any other crimes while on supervised release, other convicted immigrants in the same situation have.

The Center for Immigration Studies is located in Washington, DC.

Below is the timeline showing how Zochowski's detainment was handled.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took custody of Marek Lucjan Zochowski, following his release from state prison on Aug. 27, 2009. 

Mr. Zochowski, a Polish national and lawful permanent resident of the U.S., was ordered removed by an immigration judge with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review on Feb. 24, 2010. 

Mr. Zochowski appealed the removal order with DOJ’s Board of Immigration Appeals, and that appeal was denied June 6, 2010.  Mr. Zochowski was held in immigration detention until Aug. 31, 2011, when he was granted supervised release pending the ongoing coordination of travel documents with the Polish consulate.

Those travel documents were obtained and Mr. Zochowski was removed to Poland on May 21, 2012.


Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifying before a House committee: