by Caroline May 13 Jun 2014, 10:00 AM PDT

Four Republican senators are pushing to bring an end to a policy that allowed for the release of thousands of convicted criminal immigrants back into the United States last year.

“By releasing these criminals back into our communities we are allowing them to commit even more crimes against Americans,” Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said. “From 2008-2012, nearly 17,000 immigrants with orders of removal were released back into our communities. And now, just last month, we learned that this number has more than doubled in one year. In 2013 alone, more than 36,000 criminally convicted aliens were released by ICE because their home countries had yet to take them back.”

Inhofe, along with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) this week introduced a bill to close what they say is a legal loophole opened with the 2001 Supreme Court case Zadvydas v. Davis, which prohibits authorities from indefinitely detaining immigrants whose countries will not accept them back.

Their legislation, “The Keep Our Communities Safe Act” would require the Department of Homeland Security to detain certain non-removable immigrants beyond the accepted six-month time limit.

“The Zadvydas decision has limited the federal government’s ability to detain aliens who have been ordered removed,” said Grassley. “Since then, the Obama administration has relied upon the ruling in Zadvydas to release thousands of criminally convicted aliens. However, they have refused to help fix it. We’re moving forward with this bill and closing the legal loophole that requires ICE to release dangerous criminals onto the streets of America. This matter needs to be taken seriously.”

Last month an internal ICE memo revealed that last year the government released 36,007 immigrants slated for deportation and convicted for nearly 88,000 crimes last year alone, including 193 homicide convictions. The revelation evoked outrage from a number of Republican lawmakers.

“This loophole is just one of many examples that our immigration system is severely broken,” Vitter said. “Not only that - it puts our families and our communities at risk by releasing criminals back into our neighborhoods. This makes no sense. We need to be enforcing our immigration laws first – like increasing our border security and detaining criminals—not giving a free pass to illegal aliens.”

More specifically their legislation would give DHS the ability to detain non-removable immigrants beyond six months if the immigrant is expected to be removed in the foreseeable future, has a contagious disease or would have been removed were it not for their own actions. It further would allow for detention beyond six months if the release would cause averse foreign policy results, threaten national security, would threaten community safety and/or it the immigrant was convicted of a violent crime or aggravated felony.