Sanctuary for Crime Part 2

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      For tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, the U.S. has become a Sanctuary for Crime. A spokesman from Immigration and Customs Enforcement told us it is "focused on smart, effective enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens."

      But, Congress has repeatedly asked ICE to explain why, then, so many dangerous criminals are set free.

      Sarah Saldaña, Director of ICE: I cannot deport any individual without an order from the court. Either an immigration court or a federal court.

      Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas): Right, and if you sought that order you could deport thousands of these individuals and you're not trying to do it.

      At a hearing in April, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) grilled ICE Director Sarah Saldaña.

      Saldaña: The criminal justice system releases murderers, rapists, sexual assaulters every day when a federal judge decides this person does not present a flight risk or is a danger to the community. That's the same considerations the law, and the regulations prescribe.

      Rep. Smith: The law allows you to deport those individuals if you want to.

      Senator Chuck Grassley says he's heard from one whistleblower after another inside ICE, claiming they're told not to do their job.

      Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): Ignore the laws, just do everything you can to have people that ought to be deported to be able to stay in this country.

      Sharyl Attkisson: So it's not, in their view, always an accident that people who have committed crimes are allowed to stay?

      Sen. Grassley: The people that have to make that decision are told to make that decision. When they get the orders from the top and they don't do it, they're going to lose their job.

      Full Measure spoke to an ICE agent who said the same thing. He asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job.

      ICE Agent: We have to sit back and watch people die and that's not an exaggeration. We have Kate Steinle that was killed, that happens every day. That's the most horrific thing is to know, that you have the ability to prevent this and the government would rather not offend anybody than keep people from dying.

      Mike Ronnebeck: I know that this country welcomes immigrants. This country was built by immigrants. But we're also a country of laws. And when we have people that cross our borders that don't have the same respect for our laws that we do, it bothers me. And it bothers me that we can't hold them accountable.

      Don Rosenberg attended a congressional hearing in July convened after Kate Steinle's death. He lashed out when an advocate said illegal immigrants should not be judged by a few bad apples.

      Don Rosenberg: A few? Thousands, thousands of people. Not a few.

      Forty-five House Republicans have co-sponsored "Kate's Law" to mandate five years in prison for any undocumented alien who returns to the U.S. after being deported. But the bill has stalled.

      Rosenberg: We're just collateral damage in their attempt to garner votes on the left and, you know, financial donations on the right. It's crazy.

      Greg Chen is an advocate for illegal immigrants with the American Immigration Lawyers Association or AILA.

      Greg Chen: What AILA cautions is that lawmakers not jump to the conclusion of trying to punish the immigrant community and scapegoat them.

      He referred to a study showing most immigrants are law abiding.

      Chen: There's no indication that immigrants are any more likely to commit a crime than anybody else.

      Sharyl: Isn't it true that the study doesn't break out the illegal immigrant population specifically? So we may assume that they don't commit crimes at a higher rate, but we really don't know?

      Chen: You're right. It doesn't break down that particular population of unauthorized versus those who are here legally.

      In the end, Chen says the best way to track those who are dangerous is to allow all illegal immigrants in the U.S. to become documented.

      Chen: It's both good for Americans in terms of national security and public safety, but benefits the economy as well as immigrant families and businesses.

      The families of the victims say they're weary of being treated as if their rights and interests take a backseat to those who wouldn't be here if laws were enforced.

      Mary Ann Mendoza: The leniencies that our government is showing these illegal criminals is costing innocent Americans their life.

      Sabine Durden: For me, it's being a mom who lost her only child and my best friend... it's about righting wrong. Has nothing to do with race. Has nothing to do with where you come from... Mexico, Germany, Canada, I don't care where you come from. You got to do it the right way. Cause we're losing too many kids. We're losing too many family members. And nobody talks about it.

      Some of the illegal immigrants in our report were finally deported. ICE told us it's working to focus efforts on criminals who threaten the public. This includes a new Priority Enforcement Program intended to make sure ICE takes custody of dangerous criminals so they're not released back into the U.S.