Acting ICE director says ‘increased risk’ by overwhelming border crossings keeps him up at night

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Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Patrick Lechleitner is warning about illegal immigrants with “various forms of criminality” who are not stopped at the border and allowed to roam free, some sheltered by sanctuary cities.  

In an exclusive interview with Fox News, the acting ICE director described the battle in the interior to apprehend criminal immigrants, often in sanctuary cities with little cooperation.

“What makes it very important is — people lose sight or maybe not aware if they’re not in this space as much — is there is a surge of individuals, noncitizens at the border, but those individuals go somewhere,” Lechleitner said. 

When asked what keeps him up at night, Lechleitner said he is concerned ICE cannot detain all the bad guys. “Every time you’re dealing with increased numbers, there is increased risk,” he said. 

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Acting ICE Director Patrick J. Lechleitner (middle at podium in the DOJ), Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John K. Tien (left) and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division (right)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Deputy Director Patrick J. Lechleitner flanked by Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John K. Tien, left, and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

“These individuals, many of them have various forms of criminality, are coming through. And these, the migrants that are, you know, going through are being preyed upon either by human smugglers, traffickers or other criminal organizations,” Lechleitner explained to Fox News. 

Lechleitner said they are doing everything they can to help their sibling agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), at the border. However, he said, that “stretches our resources thin and pulls resources off our interior mission, which is our core mission, to go after the civil immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States.”

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Migrants crossing the border into Texas

An aerial view shows an immigrant group passing across water and barbed wire and walking to the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 1, 2024. (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

While ICE often apprehends illegals with a criminal history, a revolving-door justice system lets some back out.

For example, in Baltimore, ICE arrested an illegal MS-13 member who was released by a sanctuary jurisdiction that ignored a detainer. In turn, ICE had to re-arrest the gang member convicted of accessory to murder. 

Lechleitner said, “Anything that happens out there in the community is going to be inherently more dangerous, because you don’t have control of the situation, even if you have a very good operational plan. It’s just more dangerous and has more room for error than something in a controlled environment.”

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illegal immigrants venezuela

A group of immigrants arrested after crossing illegally into the U.S. via Texas. (Texas DPS)

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“The sanctuary jurisdictions are inherently more unsafe, because they’re letting these individuals out who have, you know, very serious convictions at times and are public safety threats, if not national security threats. It is a concern, and I’m very baffled by it,” said Lechleitner.

Lechleitner said there is “no question” that sanctuary jurisdictions make ICE’s job “significantly harder.”

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