ICE frees hundreds of illegals
WASHINGTON — Days before mandatory budget cuts go into effect across the government, the Department of Homeland Security has started releasing illegal immigrants being held in detention facilities across the nation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said ICE has reviewed “several hundred cases” of immigrants and released them in the past week. They have been “placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release,” she said.
Republicans denounced the move as an attempt to frighten Americans into supporting President Obama's budget spending demands.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it was “abhorrent” that Obama would release lawbreakers “to promote his political agenda on sequestration.” He suggested the release was merely a way to pressure Republicans to vote his way.
“By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives,” Goodlatte said. “It also undermines our efforts to come together with the administration and reform our nation's immigration laws.”
ICE press secretary Barbara Gonzalez said the agency is not dropping deportation proceedings against detainees who have been released. But because of the “fiscal uncertainty” hovering over the federal government, she said it was necessary to release them “to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget.”
“Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety,” she said.
The uncertainty Gonzalez referred to is the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts due to go into effect on Friday. Known as sequestration, the spending cuts are part of a 10-year, $1.2 trillion automatic decrease in federal spending put into effect by Congress and agreed to by Obama during negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling.
Obama is demanding tax hikes to avoid sequestration. Republicans are generally in favor of cutting the budget, but say sequestration hits the Defense Department too heavily, endangering national security. Obama has been denouncing the GOP this week for not being willing to raise taxes as well as cut spending.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress are negotiating over an immigration bill that could put the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. Republicans insist that the border must be secured and immigration laws must be tightened before any such path is considered. Some say that the ICE release threatens to undermine those negotiations.
Advocates for illegal immigrants say the release shows that many of those incarcerated in ICE facilities don't need to be there.
Carlos Garcia, executive director of the Arizona-based Puente Human Rights Movement, said advocates have long argued that people facing deportation proceedings should not be held in custody — apart from their families — while enduringlong waits to have their cases decided.
“They shouldn't stop at releasing hundreds,” Garcia said. “They should close the entire unnecessary immigration detention system.”
ICE officials say the average daily detainee population was about 30,773 people as of Feb. 23.
People released from custody can be placed in supervised programs, ICE said. They can be fitted with an ankle monitor or required to check in with ICE routinely.
The announcement was made as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that the sequester cuts would affect “all core missions” of the department, including the loss of 5,000 border agents.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police to Waze: Not so fast on cop tracker, which they say makes it harder to catch speeders
- Ancient Israeli skull hard proof of migration
- Obama AG pick gets positive conservative marks
- In Boston, the latest Big Dig is all about snow
- Treasure hunter accused of swindling investors captured
- Residents in Seattle: Compost or else ...
- Number of children on food stamps hits 6-year high
- N.D. didn’t inspect pipe before rupture
- Girl’s fatal shooting by Denver officers prompts review of policy
- Prosecutors fight new try to relocate Boston trial
- Deadly fire in Maryland started in faulty electrical outlet, spread to Christmas tree