Politics

Mayorkas Says Freeing Laken Riley’s Accused Killer into U.S. was Warranted Despite Available ICE Detention Space

When Jose Antonio Ibarra of Venezuela first crossed the United States-Mexico border in September 2022 near El Paso, Texas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had about 8,100 detention beds available. Instead of holding Ibarra in its available detention space, ICE released him into the U.S. interior.

A year and a half later, Ibarra was arrested and charged with 22-year-old Laken Riley‘s murder in Athens, Georgia.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, during a Senate hearing on Thursday, suggested that Ibarra’s release into the U.S. interior was justified because the agency had no reason to detain him — even as thousands of ICE detention beds were available at the time of his release.

“There was no derogatory information of which we were aware in our holdings to compel the detention of this individual,” Mayorkas told Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), a ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee.

Laken Riley was murdered allegedly by Jose Antonio Ibarra in February in Athens, Georgia. Ibarra was released at the border instead of being detained by DHS. (Facebook/CCSO)

In a separate case unveiled this week, President Joe Biden’s DHS was found to have released 48-year-old Mohammad Kharwin of Afghanistan into the U.S. interior in March 2023. At the time of his release, ICE figures indicate there were about 7,000 detention beds available.

Kharwin was later discovered to be a member of the terrorist group Hezb-e-Islami and on the federal government’s “Terrorist Watch List.”

Experts told Breitbart News that the Biden administration has continuously sought to gut ICE detention in favor of a mass release policy at the border that even cuts out monitoring of migrants post-release.

For instance, in Biden’s latest Fiscal Year 2025 budget request, Mayorkas asks for just 34,000 ICE detention beds — a decrease from the 41,500 detention beds funded by Congress in spending packages approved last month and far below the 50,000 detention beds that the administration agreed to accept in legislation proposed by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Democrats.

RJ Hauman with the National Immigration Center for Enforcement (NICE) told Breitbart News that Biden and Mayorkas only agreed to the 50,000 detention beds in the Lankford bill because the provision was “in exchange for codification of crisis levels and millions for non-governmental organizations and sanctuary jurisdictions.”

“A mass-migration extortion attempt,” Hauman called the Lankford bill, saying that the Biden administration’s seeking to massively reduce detention beds as part of its latest funding request “proves that the Senate saga was nothing more than a political charade.”

The House Homeland Security Committee issued a report late last year that chronicled the Biden administration’s reduction of detention beds:

In fact, ICE is not using many detention facilities to their full capacity, despite the record number of illegal aliens crossing each month. For example, by December 2023, the Adelanto ICE facility in Southern California, with a detention capacity of nearly 2,000 illegal aliens, is currently holding just six, because the Biden administration refuses to actively fight a court order that prohibited new intake to the facility in 2020 due to COVID-19 spacing and distance requirements. [Emphasis added]

All told, 25,000 ICE beds at the ceiling of $142.44 per day, for 365 days a year, totals around $1.3 billion, and $1.43 billion at $157.20 per day. Regardless of whether those beds are used to full capacity, they are still paid for by the American taxpayer. However, instead of using that detention capacity to hold and deport illegal aliens, Mayorkas has stifled interior enforcement and implemented his policy of “catch and release,” whereby hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are being released into the interior. This mass wave off illegal aliens subsequently making its way throughout the country, but especially major cities, who are then forced to pay to house them. This leads to outcomes in which state and local governments are forced to unnecessarily shoulder new costs to house illegal aliens, often asking the federal government to reimburse them for those costs—on top of the expenditures DHS has already made for thousands of ICE beds. [Emphasis added]

US Border Patrol agents prepare to transport migrants for asylum claim processing at the US-Mexico border in Campo, California, US, on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Mark Abramson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Like ICE detention beds, the number of migrants enrolled in ICE’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program has also failed to grow alongside a record number of border crossings and mass releases under Biden.

For instance, data suggests that in March 2021, about 2.7 percent of the 3.3 million migrants on ICE’s non-detained docket — who reside in the U.S. while awaiting immigration hearings — were enrolled in the ATD program to ensure they were properly monitored.

By March 2024, Biden grew ICE’s non-detained docket to more than 6.2 million migrants. Still, fewer than three percent are enrolled in the ATD program to be monitored amid their release into the U.S. interior, despite an almost doubling of the non-detained docket population.

While still using the ATD program, the Biden administration has helped greatly tilt its use toward providing services like mental health evaluations and cultural orientation via the Case Management Pilot Program (CMPP) and Young Adult Case Management Program (YACMP).

The CMPP and YACMP help shift huge sums of American taxpayer dollars away from the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), which tracks migrants through GPS monitoring, and towards offering services to migrants.

Though it has failed to come to fruition, the Biden administration had wanted to eventually put billions toward the Release and Reporting Management (RRM) program — designed to have released migrants make annual “check-ins” rather than being monitored through ISAP.

US Border Patrol agents prepare to transport migrants for asylum claim processing at the US-Mexico border in Campo, California, US, on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Mark Abramson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

At a House hearing this week, Reps. Michael Guest (R-MS) and David Joyce (R-OH) questioned Mayorkas about his seeking to reduce detention bed space amid sky-high illegal immigration, where last month more than 189,000 migrants arrived at the southern border.

“Does this request ask for enough resources to remove the more than 1.3 million aliens on the non-detained docket whose cases have already been adjudicated and no longer have a legal basis to remain in this country?” Joyce asked Mayorkas:

Does it ask for an appropriate level of detention beds to detain aliens who pose a national security risk or public safety risks? No, this administration instead asks for 7,500 less beds than Congress just funded in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. [Emphasis added]

In an exchange with Guest, Mayorkas said DHS is “committed to working with Congress to sustain the 41,500 beds that Congress funded” in its spending packages passed last month.

Guest questioned why Mayorkas officially asked for a decrease in detention beds, 34,000, if the agency wanted more bed space.

“If that’s the number, why didn’t you put that in your budget?” Guest asked Mayorkas. “… if those were the numbers you need … I would ask you to put those numbers actually in your budget and you asked Congress to fund that and you don’t just expect us to plus up those numbers.”

Migrants wait to be transported for asylum claim processing at the US-Mexico border in Campo, California, US, on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Mark Abramson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In her testimony, Britt noted a widespread number of criminal migrants continuously being released from ICE custody rather than remaining detained.

“There have been 4,700 with convictions for assault, 450 of whom have been released,” Britt detailed to Mayorkas:

There have been 5,200 with convictions for drug crimes, 261 of which have been released. There have been 1,100 with convictions for weapons crimes, 92 of which have been released. There have been 1,200 with convictions for sexual assault, 46 of whom have been released. And there have been 490 with convictions for homicide, 50 of whom have been released.
[Emphasis added]

“More detention beds lead to more removals which would, in turn, lead to a secure border and safer American communities,” Hauman told Breitbart News. “What will it take for the Biden administration and Democrats to finally realize this? Another college student’s murder? A terrorist attack? This is a sad, dangerous reality we’re in.”

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at jbinder@breitbart.com. Follow him on Twitter here



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