Obama administration admits number of illegals released was more than 2,000
WASHINGTON — After weeks of denials, the Obama administration acknowledged on Thursday that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails for what it called budget concerns during three weeks in February. Four of the most serious offenders have been put back in detention.
The administration had insisted that only a “few hundred” immigrants were released for budgetary reasons, challenging as inaccurate a March 1 report by The Associated Press that the agency had released more than 2,000 immigrants in February and planned to release more than 3,000 others this month. Intense criticism led to a temporary shutdown of the plan.
The director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, told a congressional panel that the agency had actually released 2,228 people from immigration jails over the course of three weeks, starting February 9, for what he described as “solely budgetary reasons.” They included 10 people considered the highest level of offender.
After the administration had challenged the AP's reporting, ICE said it didn't know how many people had been released for budget reasons but would review its records.
Morton, who testified with two other agency officials, told lawmakers that the decision to release the immigrants was not discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He said the pending automatic cuts known as sequestration were “driving in the background.”
“We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us,” Morton told lawmakers. “This was not a White House call. I take full responsibility.”
The House appropriations subcommittee chairman, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, pressed Morton about the agency's claims that immigrants were routinely released, and Morton acknowledged that the release of more than 2,000 immigrants was not routine.
“At the time this release started, the president of the United States was going around the country telling people what the pain was going to be from sequester,” Carter said. “That's a fact. That was the atmosphere. It was Chicken Little, the sky is falling, almost.”
Morton told Carter that more immigrants were released in Texas than in any other state but did not name other states where they were released.
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.
- 12 missing after flooding in Texas sweeps away vacation home
- LA raises minimum wage to $15 an hour
- EPA expected to expand protection of streams, wetlands
- Coal’s worst fears affirmed in analysis of Obama climate plan
- Doctors, hospitals get more time to convert to electronic health records
- BP credited with gulf tourism boom
- Obama gets state, local allies for key initiatives
- Phone threats put scare into international flights
- Cleveland settles policing issues with Justice Department
- Rescuers find stranded woman in California desert, too late for husband
- Ohio’s largest road project to cost 3 times its estimate