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Moody demands answers on criminal Venezuelans in U.S.

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Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is demanding answers from the Biden administration about how many criminal Venezuelans are being released into the U.S. and how many are being detained and deported.

Moody sent a Freedom of Information request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security demanding answers after she said crimes are increasingly being committed against Americans by violent Venezuelan Tren de Aragua prison gang members reportedly being released into the U.S. by the Biden administration.

Moody’s request asks for any emails sent to or received by a relevant Immigration and Customs Enforcement official related to issuing, cancelling or declining to take into custody “a detainer for any alien or group of aliens in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.” It also lists relevant staff, including DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and limits record requests to those created since Jan. 20, 2021.

“The Biden administration has full knowledge that prisoners from other countries are making their way into the United States through our wide-open border,” Moody said. “Now, we are demanding to know reasons why the Biden administration is releasing criminal illegal aliens in U.S. prisons directly into the interior, rather than deporting them back to their country of origin. This reckless scheme could have disastrous and serious repercussions, and the American people deserve to know.”

In fiscal 2023, federal agents apprehended a record number of criminal noncitizens, The Center Square reported. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers apprehended nearly 50,000; ICE agents made 170,590 administrative arrests; and Homeland Security Investigations agents made over 33,000 criminal arrests nationwide. From fiscal years 2021 to 2023, ICE agents arrested more than 387,000 criminal noncitizens primarily from Mexico, Nicaragua, Columbia and Venezuela, The Center Square reported.

Not all are being deported, according to a U.S. House Judiciary Committee report. It found that the Biden administration removed nearly 60% fewer criminal aliens with convictions and charges in fiscal 2023 than were removed in fiscal 2019.

Republicans in the House point to Mayorkas creating more than a dozen parole programs House Republicans identified as illegal used as evidence to support their charge to impeach him. One new parole program allows up to 30,000 Venezuelans to be released into the country a month who otherwise would not qualify under current law. Twenty states, including Florida, sued over the “illegal visa system.” They lost in January, after the Supreme Court ruled they did not have standing to sue.

Mayorkas changed parole policies after some countries refused to accept their citizens being deported back from the U.S., The Center Square reported. Last month, Venezuela also began halting deportation flights from the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported.

As more reported Venezuelans with criminal backgrounds enter the U.S., Venezuela’s violent death rate has dropped to its lowest level in more than two decades, Bloomberg News reported.

At a recent U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, asked FBI Director Christopher Wray about Venezuelan Tren de Aragua prison gang members being released into the U.S. Wray said he couldn’t speak specifically to the gang but said, “certainly, we have had dangerous individuals entering the United States of a variety of sorts.”

“Are we now seeing crimes from people that entered the country over the last three years, some of them with ties to gangs or other criminal organizations?” Rubio asked.

“From an FBI perspective, we are seeing a wide array of very dangerous threats that emanate from the border, and that includes everything from the drug trafficking” to violent crime, Wray said.

He also said a smuggling network with ISIS ties “that we’re very concerned about” was moving people from all over the world illegally into the U.S.

According to CBP data, 334,914 Venezuelans were “encountered” illegally entering the U.S. nationwide in fiscal 2023, up from 189,520 in fiscal 2022 and 50,499 in fiscal 2021. In fiscal 2024 through the end of February, 178,914 Venezuelans have illegally entered the country.

From January 2023 through the end of February 2024, more than 501,000 foreign nationals arrived at ports of entry using Mayorkas’ CBP One mobile app. The majority who were processed into the U.S. were Haitian, Mexican, and Venezuelan, The Center Square reported.