Donald Trump falsely claimed that a “criminal alien” released from prison in 2012 and later convicted of murdering a Connecticut woman in 2015 was “set free by [Hillary] Clinton’s watch” when she was secretary of state.
In fact, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released Jean Jacques from its custody without the State Department’s knowledge after Haiti refused to accept him, according to a June report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.
“ERO [ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations] did not elevate to the State Department Haiti’s refusal to accept Jacques, a course of action provided for in ERO’s removal guidelines,” the IG report said.
Trump often blames Clinton at his rallies for the release of “criminal aliens” from federal custody into U.S. communities. In a speech on Aug. 31, for example, he said: “According to a report for the Boston Globe, from the year 2008 to 2014 nearly 13,000 criminal aliens were released back into U.S. communities because their home countries would not, under any circumstances, take them back.” Trump then added, “These 13,000 releases occurred on Hillary Clinton’s watch.”
As we wrote at that time, the Globe wrote that ICE, not the State Department, “freed 12,941 criminals nationwide from 2008 to early 2014” to comply with a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The court ruled that, if another country refuses to accept them, the U.S. cannot hold convicted criminals (who have served their sentences) in detention without justification for longer than six months if their removal from the U.S. is not “reasonably foreseeable.”
As we also pointed out, Clinton was not even secretary of state during the entire time that ICE released those nearly 13,000 criminal aliens. She was secretary of state from January 2009 to February 2013.
This time — at an Oct. 10 rally in Ambridge, Pennsylvania — Trump went even further in claiming that a Haitian man convicted of killing 25-year-old Casey Chadwick of Connecticut in 2015 was “set free by Clinton’s watch.”
Trump, Oct. 10: One foreign national and convicted killer who should have been sent back to his home country in 2012 was instead set free by Clinton’s watch. Six months after his release he killed again, murdering a 25-year-old beautiful Casey Chadwick. You probably heard about it.
According to a timeline in the IG report, Jacques fled Haiti after his father died in 1992, and he was picked up at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard. “At the time of his arrival to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jacques did not possess any documents on his person identifying him as a Haitian citizen,” the IG report said.
In 1997, Jacques was convicted of attempted murder in Connecticut, and he served 15 years in prison. After Jacques served his sentence, ICE took custody of him on April 18, 2012, and tried to deport him. But the Haiti government refused to accept him, “because he did not possess sufficient documentation to prove his Haitian citizenship,” the IG report said.
ICE ordered Jacques’ release on Oct. 19, 2012, “consistent with ICE policy following the Supreme Court ruling” in 2001, the IG report said.
The IG report noted that ICE could have sought the State Department’s help in seeking a diplomatic resolution to Haiti’s refusal to accept Jacques. But it did not do so.
IG report, June 16: According to the [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Law Division, only the Department of State has the tools necessary to leverage a foreign country into accepting a deportee. Pursuant to Chapter 16.2(b) of the DROPPM, “when a foreign country refuses to accept, or unduly delays acceptance, of its nationals found to be deportable from the United States,” ICE may notify the State Department, which in turn “may suspend immigrant and nonimmigrant visa issuances” for the country. These reports to the State Department should “[i]nclude the date and time of every attempt to obtain a travel documents, the names of consular officials involved, names of aliens affected, and other relevant details.” Following Haiti’s several denials, Jacques’ name was never reported to the State Department.
According to the IG report, ICE officials “believed that the State Department’s involvement was typically limited to aliens engaged in terrorism or human rights violations.” The IG report said its staff did not interview State Department officials about the Jacques case, and it had no reason to doubt ICE’s past experience with the State Department. But it still faulted ICE for failing to attempt to seek the State Department’s help.
The IG report also was critical of ICE for failing to contact Jacques’ family members in the United States in an attempt to get the documents the agency needed to have Jacques deported. It also noted that a Haitian government official advised ICE to contact the Haitian consulate in Miami to request a travel document, but there is no record of such a request.
The IG reported added, however, that “we cannot conclude that those steps would have resulted in Jacques’ removal from the United States.”
Still, Chadwick’s mother, Wendy Hartling, told the Washington Times that ICE should have done more. “I put the blame on ICE. That’s their job,” Hartling told the paper. “Their job is to deport criminal aliens.”
Some members of Congress have called on the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to work together to pressure “recalcitrant countries” to accept criminal aliens.
For example, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley wrote a letter in June to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in which the senator expressed surprise “that you have never recommended using 243(d) sanctions” of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under that provision, the secretary of state upon notice from the attorney general “shall order consular officers in that foreign country discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country until the Attorney General notifies the Secretary [of State] that the country has accepted the alien.”
The U.S. has not imposed such sanctions, which are to be made after consultation between the secretaries of homeland security and state, on any nation since Guyana in 2001, Grassley’s letter said.
Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department, testified in July that the two departments have been working under a “Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Repatriation” since 2011 that addresses “recalcitrant countries.” The MOU, which was in place when Clinton was secretary, provides certain options, including “diplomatic intervention overseas and high-level engagement in Washington, practical measures designed to address resource and capacity limitations, and halting the issuance of visas.”
In the case of Jacques, however, no attempt was made by ICE to get the State Department involved, so Trump’s claim that Jacques was “set free by Clinton’s watch” distorts the facts of the case.