House Republicans renewed their complaints about the Obama administration’s move to release illegal immigrants from local jails over budget cuts, after obtaining an Immigration and Customs Enforcement document that appeared to detail plans to release 1,000 detainees every week.
The one-page document, obtained and published by the House Judiciary Committee, includes a chart that shows the number of illegal immigrants in custody dropping by 1,000 a week between Feb. 15 and March 31.
By the end of the month, the detainee population would be roughly 26,000, below the 34,000 prescribed by Congress.
Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said the document showed ICE preparing “cold calculations” to release criminals onto the streets without consideration for the safety of the public.
“Clearly, there are better ways to save money than to release criminals onto the streets,” he said in a statement, adding that the department could save money by cutting bonuses and grants.
ICE first revealed it was releasing illegal immigrants last week, describing the initial release as being in the “hundreds” and attributing it to the sequester cuts which took effect this past Friday.
Subsequent reports have claimed ICE has already released thousands. But the agency on Tuesday reiterated that they are only releasing those “who posed the least threat to public safety.”
ICE maintains that these individuals are selected on a case-by-case basis, will be supervised, and will remain in removal proceedings.
“These decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, by career law enforcement officials in the field, in order to ensure that ICE maintained sufficient resources to detain serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety through the end of the continuing resolution,” the agency said in a statement.
The current budget resolution expires at the end of the month.
ICE also said the agency was not clear which of the detainees are being released for “budgetary reasons” and which are being released “due to normal fluctuations.” The agency said it must endure a $294 million -- or 5 percent -- cut, while stressing that the average daily population so far this year has been nearly 34,000.
The optics of releasing detainees in Arizona and possibly other states, though, has at the least proved politically troubling for the administration. It is among the decisions Republicans have pointed to in claiming the administration is trying to make the sequester seem worse in order to force Republicans to the negotiating table on a package that cancels some spending cuts and replaces them with tax hikes.
“Considering the government’s primary function is public safety, it is very concerning to me that the Department of Homeland Security had plans to reduce spending by releasing thousands of illegal immigrants and criminal aliens,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said in response to the latest ICE document. “How could this be the most responsible way to reduce agency costs? Did DHS look to other parts of the budget?”