ICE director grilled over release of illegal immigrants

Rep. Trey Gowdy sounds off


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 19, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Illegals released, and now the head of ICE on the hot seat.


REP. TREY GOWDY, R - S.C.: What is a level one violator?

JOHN MORTON, ICE DIRECTOR: A level one offender -- first, I obviously disagree with your characterization about these being...


GOWDY: Well, that's fine. You can use your time to disagree with my characterization. Don't use mine. What is a level one violator?

MORTON: With regard to level one offenders, they are aggravated felons.


GOWDY: And how many were released?

MORTON: There are four presently...

GOWDY: How many were released?

MORTON: Eight were released. We have four presently.

GOWDY: Then this notion that you don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul, you could have easily done that. You could have found $600 to keep these level one violators from being released. And don't act like you could not have.


CAVUTO: Congressman Trey Gowdy joining me right now.

Did you get the answers you needed?

GOWDY: Some of them.

You don't ever get all of them in only five minutes. My concern, Neil, was the politicization of the criminal justice system by sequester. That's all I was trying to prove. There are lots of ways to save $600 a day, which is what it costs to house the four level one offenders that ICE decided to release, $600. Cut the training budget; cut the promotional budget; cut the travel budget. But they wanted to play games with sequester.


CAVUTO: But that begs the issue that it would have been cheaper, as they said it would have been, to monitor them out in the open. And that really stretches a lot of credibility here.

GOWDY: Well, it's about $14 a day for electronic monitoring. But the reality is, if they should have been released because they are not a flight risk, then you should have released them absent sequestration.


CAVUTO: So, in other words -- I want to be clear. They were releasing these guys because sequestration cuts were coming down the pike, or so they thought.

GOWDY: That's right.

CAVUTO: So, ahead of the cuts, these cut these guys loose.

GOWDY: Well, but the reality is, they thought sequestration was going take place on January 1. Remember, the fiscal cliff moved it back to March.

CAVUTO: That's right.

GOWDY: So what plans were they making last fall to deal with these draconian two-cents-on-the-dollar budget cuts that sequestration put into effect?

I just do not want law enforcement or the criminal justice system playing the same political games we always play with other agencies and institutions of government. I just would hope public safety would be immune from these kinds of political shenanigans. But apparently it's not.

CAVUTO: Do you believe these numbers? I mean, I suspect they could be much greater than we're hearing.

GOWDY: Well, who knows what would have happened had it not -- the memo not been released...


GOWDY: ... that we're releasing thousands of level one and level two.

And, Neil, level two, how many of your viewers consider repeat recidivist DUI offenders to be low-risk? ICE does.

CAVUTO: Yes, very good point, Congressman, very good point.

GOWDY: ICE does.

CAVUTO: All right.

GOWDY: But if you're hit by one of them, you don't consider them to be low-risk.

CAVUTO: Yes. You have to move up to number one very, very quickly.

GOWDY: Yes, sir.

CAVUTO: Congressman, thank you very, very much.

GOWDY: Yes, sir.

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