What officials number at 'several hundred' immigrants who were in detention centers across the United States...most awaiting deportation...have been released from custody.
Officials announced the move Tuesday...but as details emerged on Wednesday, several lawmakers are crying foul.
The move was made, according to officials with I.C.E., (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), was made ahead of looming budget cuts that would go into effect at the end of the month as part of the larger "Sequester" cuts being debated in Washington.
ICE officials said that the immigrants were released under supervision and continue to face deportation. After reviewing hundreds of cases, those released were considered low-risk and â??noncriminal,â?? officials said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the releases took place over the last week and were an effort â??to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget,â?? said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christiansen, citing uncertainty caused by a budget standoff in Washington.
â??All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety,â?? she said.
When asked about the releases today, White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that â??This was a decision made by career officials at ICE without any input from the White House as a result of fiscal uncertainty over the continuing resolution as well as possible sequestration."
The Washington Times reports that in 2012 ICE detained about 34,000 immigrants on an average day, though House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said that number had dropped to 30,773 immigrants as of last week.
He said that was â??a clear violationâ?? of existing law.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte told the Washing Times that the decision was a political ploy that put the public in danger.
â??Itâ??s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration,â?? the Virginia Republican said in a statement. â??By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives.â??
Still others see the move as a step in the right direction.
â??We have long advocated for expanded use of alternatives to detention, a step we knew would save taxpayers millions of dollars,â?? said Ruthie Epstein of Human Rights First. â??It is a shame that it took the threat of serious budget cuts to prompt this move. Even so, ICEâ??s decision makes clear that the government can save money by reforming its approach to immigration detention.â??
Do you see releasing the detainees as a political ploy over the "Sequestration" debate? Or something that we should have done anyway?