WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15), a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, introduced legislation (H.R. 1156, the Accountability in Repatriation Act) on March 17 to address the growing number of aliens who are under order to be removed from the United States but are delayed or refused reentry by their home country.

“It is simply unacceptable for a country to deny or delay its own citizens’ reentry after they have been scheduled for deportation, including those who have been convicted of a crime,” Dent said. “By applying pressure on foreign nations to act responsibly, H.R. 1156 is an appropriate first step to reversing this objectionable practice that drains federal resources. Furthermore, the United States can no longer continue to release criminals who face deportation into our communities, where they jeopardize the safety of American citizens.”

Dent’s bill requires quarterly reports to Congress from the Secretary of Homeland Security listing the countries that refuse or unreasonably delay repatriation, including information on the total number of criminal aliens in the United States. To encourage cooperation, the Secretary will have the power to deny the issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant (or diplomatic) visas to citizens and residents of the offending country. Under H.R. 1156, the Administration retains the authority to exercise diplomatic flexibility with an affected nation in order to protect American interests.

On March 11, John Morton, Director of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), testified before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security regarding the agency’s proposed FY12 budget.  When questioned by Dent on the issue of timely removal and repatriation, Morton recognized that certain countries continue to pose a challenge to our ability to quickly remove an alien when deportation has been ordered.  Morton indicated ICE and the Department of State must move toward a cooperative solution for successfully deporting criminal aliens. 

According to 2009 figures provided by ICE, eight countries, including Laos, Iran, Eritrea, Vietnam, Jamaica, China, India, and Ethiopia are currently refusing or unreasonably delaying the repatriation of over 147,000 aliens – increased from 139,000 in February 2008.  American courts have ruled that the federal government cannot legally hold criminal aliens in custody for longer than six months following their sentence of imprisonment if their home country refuses or unreasonably delays reentry, unless the individual is proven to be “specially dangerous.” As a result, more than 17,000 convicted criminals have been released in our communities because their home country refuses or delays repatriation.