News / USA

Bracing for Sequester, US Frees Illegal Immigrants

FILE - Immigrant detainees walk halls of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a Corrections Corporation of America immigration facility in Taylor, Texas, Feb. 9, 2007.
FILE - Immigrant detainees walk halls of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a Corrections Corporation of America immigration facility in Taylor, Texas, Feb. 9, 2007.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) says it has released hundreds of detained immigrants in an effort to save money ahead of potential government budget cuts.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Tuesday the agency ordered field officers to examine the number of immigrants in detention facilities to make sure it’s in line with available funding.

"Over the last week, ICE has reviewed several hundred cases and placed these individuals on methods of supervision less costly than detention,” she said. “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.”

The agency is not providing specifics about the number of detainees being released from ICE prisons, or why, where or how long they have been held.

​Immigration advocacy groups say they are getting calls from contacts in Alabama, Arizona, California, New Jersey and Texas.

Andrea Black, executive director of the Detention Watch Network, said she is encouraged by the news.

“We feel like ICE actually needed to release these people a long time ago,” she said. “We think this is a good opportunity for the government to review its priorities and stop using a political calculus to release detainees.”

Reforming U.S. immigration policy and balancing the budget are two of the most controversial issues facing President Barack Obama, who is under pressure to please both conservative and liberal lawmakers and voters. The two issues collided this week with the ICE decision to review its detainees.

Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, called the review an “abhorrent” political maneuver by President Obama to promote his economic agenda.

Immigration detainees at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, April 13, 2009.Immigration detainees at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, April 13, 2009.
Immigration detainees at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, April 13, 2009.
Immigration detainees at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, April 13, 2009.
“By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives. It also undermines our efforts to come together with the administration and reform our nation’s immigration laws,” Goodlatte said in a statement.

ICE is continuing to prosecute the cases in immigration court and, when ordered, will seek the defendants’ deportation from the United States, according to Christensen.

Black, of Detention Watch Network, acknowledged the ICE review might be a political stunt, but she dismissed the prospect it will endanger the public.

“It can sound really scary, ‘release to the streets,’ but that’s not the case,” she said, adding that many of the detainees are returning to their families or working with community organizations to reintegrate into society.

Carolina Canizales, coordinator of United We Dream’s national END our Pain initiative, said the newly released immigrants should not be feared.

“Low-priority individuals — people who pose absolutely no risk or danger to society, but rather are upstanding members of their communities and families — should not have been locked up to begin with,” she said.

A University of Texas graduate and an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, Canizales said it should not take a “manufactured crisis” in Washington to prompt U.S. immigration agencies to “take steps towards using government resources wisely or keeping families together,” adding that now is the time for “real immigration reform.”

Members of Congress are cobbling together an immigration reform bill they hope to present for consideration next month. Until then, the federal budget crunch is a more immediate concern.

On Friday, spending cuts known as “sequestration” will take effect unless U.S. lawmakers achieve a breakthrough in talks on how to reduce the $16 trillion national debt. The automatic spending cuts will affect government agencies and programs across the country, amounting to $1.2 trillion in savings over a decade.

ICE’s Christensen did not say how much money the agency may be saving by releasing detainees, but National Immigration Forum officials say detaining an immigrant costs between $122 and $164 per day.

The group says alternative forms of detention, like telephonic and in-person reporting, curfews, and home visits, could cost between 30 cents and $14 per day per detainee.

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Comment Sorting
by: Dave Francis from: Indianapolis, IN
February 28, 2013 2:47 PM
Democrats are blaming Republicans for the “Sequester” when it was President Obama signed it into law. Now he is using intimidation by alarming the American people, about the outcome of this law. All but in secrecy Homeland Security sent an interoffice memo to release up to 10,000 illegal aliens back on the streets. The 40 million Tea Party members are watching carefully the Liberal-Democrats and the Socialist Czars who craft most of the laws, designed to cripple the America we know. Democrats are issuing more freebies to the unknown numbers of majority groups, the poor and the freeloaders. Food stamps are more or less being passed out on a “Carte Blanche” basis and even free cell phones to anybody who applies. Some GOP Senators and Congressional leaders are running scared, because of the loss of the general election, when the truth is slowly emerging of giant irregularities of non-citizens voting. Now we have legislators as John McCain, Lindsey Graham and others cringing to the demand that 20 to 30 million foreigners gain immediate legal status.

Next on the Democrats list is passing another illegal Alien amnesty, with previous 1986 (IRCA) was poorly organized and full of fraudulent application and yet 6 million illegal migrants and immigrants were awarded a Path to Citizenship. The law was dictated to as the new one gaining momentum by the special interests, agriculture, unions, faith groups, corporations yet not the General Public?What did it bring us, millions of more procuring citizenship welfare and an intensification to encourage even more foreigners skirting our borders, smuggled children and families? The country is in a dire emergency with a 17 trillion dollar debt, with Obama’s minions spending and spending and demanding more taxes to pay for another amnesty if it is enacted. The last Amnesty is still being paid for in illegal municipal ordinances as Sanctuary Cities, and federal pushes as the Dream Act, crucifying the taxpayer with Family Unification Chain Migration adding even more millions of people who will need Social Security and money to live on when retired? Petition your Representative in Washington at NumbersUSA or make the effort to call them through the main government switchboard at 202) 224-3121. There are an estimated 23 million Americans either not working, but with pressing demand of big businesses their advocates that roam the halls of Congress still are gaining favors. The E-Verify provision of THE LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT must find passage in Congress, before any new immigration laws are given priority, also to include the 2006Secure Fence Act. Not one fence but at least two, stretching from Texas to California. In addition THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP ACT to be voted on to stop the intentional smuggling of children into our nation from across the world, to gain immediate citizenship. These laws will draw to a close the hundreds of billions of dollars collected by people of foreign status.

by: mike from: tennessee
February 27, 2013 1:03 PM
Now is the time to act. If you dont 5 years from now you WONT have any rights. All of you minorities. You will be right there with us. I just pray you bottom dwellers and leaches of our once great land starve first. May you rot in hell for what youve done.

by: jerry from: los angeles
February 26, 2013 11:28 PM
another attempt by obama and liberals to buy votes. this is the sad decay of america. there's way too many illegal aliens roaming my city

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