House panel subpoenas names of arrested illegal immigrants

The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena Friday requiring the Department of Homeland Security to hand over the names of thousands of illegal immigrants who were arrested by local authorities over the last three years but not deported by immigration officials.

The subpoena is the latest volley in a contentious debate between House Republicans and the Obama administration over its immigration policy, which makes deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal records a priority.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, estimates that more than 300,000 illegal immigrants were arrested and fingerprinted at local jails between October 2008 and April 2011 but were not taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents because they had committed “low-level” crimes.


Smith wants to know if some of those arrested went on to commit crimes after being released from local jails.

The committee first requested the information Aug. 22. Then Smith told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a hearing last week that the department had until Oct. 31 to produce the list of names. That deadline passed without the information being released. The committee then gave the department until Nov. 10 to produce the names.

Homeland Security officials said Friday that the department had been working to provide the information requested and would comply with the subpoena.

The fingerprints are shared with the FBI and immigration officials under a program called Secure Communities that is used in more than 1,600 jurisdictions. Homeland Security officials said they needed approval from the FBI before releasing some of the data.

ICE has the money and manpower to deport approximately 400,000 people per year, and Obama administration officials say they want those limited resources used to deport mostly convicted criminals, repeat immigration violators and recent arrivals.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said the information, if released, could contain the names of U.S. citizens and lawful residents whose records were flagged by the database in error. It will be up to the committee staff to protect the names from unlawful disclosure.