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Why did the Obama Administration allow the release of hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention during the same week of the sequester deadline?
Citing the ongoing fiscal pressures, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released “several hundred” immigrants in deportation proceedings from immigrant detention facilities.
“In order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels, ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding,” ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement. “As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release.”
Note that sequestration does not even occur until March 1. In fact, both critics and supporters are confused about the timing:
But the timing has struck both critics and supporters of the move as unusual, as the sequester won’t even take effect until March 1. Doris Meissner, Clinton’s former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, says it’s unclear whether the decision is intended to show “how damaging sequestration is” — or whether it’s intended to be a constructive policy shift meant to acknowledge “the fact that a lot of people subject to deportation aren’t hardened criminals.”
On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asked, “I’m supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration. How do I pay for those?”
Of course, ICE isn’t dropping deportation cases for any of these released immigrants; they’re monitoring their travels during their prosecutions. ICE is also prioritizing the detention of serious criminal offenders.
The timing of these releases certainly seems suspicious. While I am not cynical enough to accuse the Obama Administration of political manipulation, why is ICE releasing hundreds of undocumented aliens this week, of all weeks? Just a few days after the White House released 51 different reports describing the negative effects of the sequester on all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia?
I’ll let the reader decide.
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