One hundred and sixty nine undocumented detainees convicted of "homicide-related" crimes in their home countries were given freedom and released into various areas in South Florida and across the nation, NBC 6 has learned.
It happened in 2013, but the numbers were recently released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
In a letter to Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who originally requested these numbers, ICE explained most of the releases were out of its hands.
The data it provided shows that detainees were released into parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, and into 13 areas of Miami-Dade County. That includes several zip codes in Hialeah and Miami, and one in Coconut Grove.
"Where'd they go? What happened to them? Why are they here? Where are they here?" asked Jose Ferer, who lives in Coconut Grove.
"It worries us because we don't have any knowledge about this type of information," said Nicole Kilder, another Coconut Grove resident who has a young daughter.
The public should be worried, said Jessica Vaughan, with the Center of Immigration Studies, which pushes for stricter immigration laws.
"It should be very concerning both to local law enforcement agencies and the public that these releases occurred without any notice to the communities in which they were released," Vaughan said.
It's unclear just how many people remain in the South Florida area. The 169 convicted criminals, who have served sentences for their crimes, are part of a much larger number of undocumented people ICE released in 2013. Just over 36,000 detainees in total were awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings.
The American immigration council calls this a scare tactic.
"The anti-immigrant movement is attempting to demonize all immigrants by focusing on a tiny fraction of cases in which we know virtually nothing about the actual circumstance under which the decision to release an individual was made," the organization said in a statement.
"It's more about having the information available to the public and that this information isn't being withheld," said local student Ayssa DiPietro.
In its letter to Sen. Grassley, ICE essentially explained that the majority of releases are beyond its control or authority. Citing most of the detainees were released as a result of federal court orders or a U.S. Supreme Court case, Zadvydas V. Davis, which prohibits ICE from indefinitely keeping detainees who cannot be deported.
When it comes to the few discretionary releases ICE said it made, those are often decided on humanitarian grounds. The person is not considered a threat to society because they may be elderly or in poor health.
In his letter to Grassley, Thomas Winkowski, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, said ICE would institute new procedures requiring that an appropriate senior level supervisor approve releases of potentially dangerous individuals.