The government has released people with criminal convictions from immigration detention centers in Georgia more than 5,300 times since 2011, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Many had been convicted of traffic offenses, including driving under the influence. Others served time for more serious charges, such as assault, rape and homicide.
Most of the releases — 3,018 — involved people freed from the Stewart Detention Center, a sprawling complex two hours south of Atlanta. More than 1,000 of the releases happened in Atlanta. Nearly 700 took place in Gainesville, where the local immigration detention center is now closed. And a smaller number were freed from the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla in South Georgia.
Those who were set free had already completed their criminal sentences and cannot be detained indefinitely, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They were released for a number of reasons, according to ICE, including to comply with federal court rulings or bond decisions made by immigration judges or because their native countries won’t cooperate in repatriating them. ICE added they eventually could still be deported if they haven’t already been removed.
ICE’s records reflect only releases from October of 2011 to December of 2014 and do not identify individuals, some of whom may be counted more than once because they have been released multiple times.