OTR Interviews

Ariz. sheriff: Obama administration playing sequester politics at expense of safety with release of illegals

Arizona is already feeling the effects of sequestration as ICE releases hundreds of illegal immigrations, with possibly thousands more to come


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, an Arizona sheriff is fired up. He's accusing the Obama administration of playing politics at the expense of safety. Now, beginning about a week ago, the Department of Homeland Security began releasing thousands of illegal immigrants from detention, and they were blaming the sequester. That was the reason.

But Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu calls the release dangerous and unacceptable. He joins us. Nice to see you, Sheriff.


VAN SUSTEREN: So Sheriff, what's your problem with releasing all the detention -- the Homeland Security says that they have to, that they don't have the cash, and sequester is putting a financial pinch on them.

BABEU: Well, I'm in the business of clues and evidence, and there's a clue. This is a week before all these deadlines for this doomsday scenario sequester, and now this plan -- not only this weekend, they released 500-plus right in my county. These are criminal illegals. Janet Napolitano said the 34,000 beds that they have for ICE detainees, that it's going to have to come down, and there's estimates now to 25,000-plus. Where are they going? And these are the illegals that even President Obama says need to be deported.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think they're doing this? I mean, do you think it's -- I mean, do you think it's simply politics? Because I presume that nobody wants to put people who we think are criminals, who are violent criminals, back on the street.

BABEU: You would hope not. And what has happened -- here's what they did. They never called the police chief in my county. They never called me as the sheriff. And now hundreds, literally, illegals that a lot of them weren't even arrested in my county, but in metro Phoenix -- they're incarcerated in prison in my county. And now they're releasing them, opening up the doors and they're out on the streets.

Not only that's not fair, why would they sacrifice first public safety? Public safety, the military are the core responsibilities of our government, and this is the first thing to go.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did you hear about it?

BABEU: We had at least a dozen ICE agents and supervisors that called me because they know that we have pushed hard against illegal immigration and to secure our border, and they knew nobody was doing anything about it. They were -- it was crisis management. They were told, Start to release everybody. They brought them in on paid overtime Saturday and this past Sunday, and started to release 200-plus a day just here in my county.

ICE never told anybody about it, and we released this publicly this morning. And then, only then, ICE came out and said, Well, they're the best of the worst. They're not the real violent ones, but they're the criminal ones.

And we have a problem with it because it undermines the rule of law, and the fact that these are criminals. Besides the fact that they're illegals, they've committed additional crimes, from theft, burglary, all kinds of other crimes here in our community, and they shouldn't be released.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we only have 20 seconds left, but I mean, the fact is, is that right now, nothing's been cut. As we sit here right now tonight, to the extent that they let anybody out because they've got -- feeling a financial pinch, well, that's not true because it hasn't happened, number one. If they're paying overtime for people to let people out, that's even worse because we're paying extra.

BABEU: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Secondly -- secondly, if the sequester is simply a slowed growth and that it's still a growth, you would think they'd have even more money, not a whole -- not as much money as they expected. So I don't understand why they have to -- why they have to let anyone -- they're not feeling a financial pinch, they're just not getting as much cash as they expected.

BABEU: You're right. And this is why it goes to the point -- and the viewers can decide. Why would they do this now? This is a hot button issue. There's a huge debate going on nationally about the 11 million illegals. We all have different opinions about whether to give them a path to citizenship, a work visa or nothing.

And OK, we respect difference of opinions, but we all agreed just last week that these 34,000 criminal illegals, they need to be deported, identified and deported. And now they've just been given an actual budget pardon, literally.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sheriff, thank you.

BABEU: Thank you, Greta.