Federal immigration officials allowed scores of violent criminals – some ordered deported decades ago – to walk away from Houston’s Harris County Jail despite the inmates’ admission to local authorities that they were in the country illegally, says the Houston Chronicle. A review of thousands of criminal and immigration records shows that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials didn’t file the paperwork to detain roughly 75 percent of the more than 3,500 inmates who told jailers during booking that they were in the U.S. illegally.
Although most of the inmates released from custody were accused of minor crimes, hundreds of convicted felons – including child molesters, rapists and drug dealers – also managed to avoid deportation after serving time in jail. In 177 cases, inmates who were released from jail after admitting to being in the country illegally later were charged with additional crimes. More than half of those charges were felonies, including aggravated sexual assault of a child and capital murder. The Houston federal Immgration and Customs Enforcement office set a record by removing 8,226 illegal immigrants with criminal records from Southeast Texas last year, an increase of about 7.5 percent from fiscal 2007.