US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced today that it has released a number of illegal immigrants who were in custody pending deportation to reduce the agency’s costs ahead of sequestration, the Washington Post reported.
Sequestration, automatic cuts in federal spending of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, goes into effect on Mar. 1, unless lawmakers can agree on an alternative deficit reduction plan or a deal to put off the cuts.
“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, according to the Washington Post.
Sources told USA Today that hundreds of illegal immigrants had been released around the country. As of Feb. 23, the average daily population in ICE detention was 30,773.
The immigrants still face deportation, the Washington Post reported.
According to the Washington Post:
Historically, many illegal immigrants released from federal detention centers while in deportation proceedings fail to show up for subsequent court appearances, joining the ranks of what ICE calls absconders or “fugitive aliens.”
Republicans condemned what they described as a move to frighten Americans into supporting President Obama's budget ideas, USA Today reported.
"The Administration's forced release of those in ICE custody further reduces the chances of reaching a bipartisan accord," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said in a statement, according to USA Today. "The Administration has further demonstrated that it has no commitment to enforcing the law and cannot be trusted to deliver on any future promises of enforcement."
Immigration advocates said that the release shows that detaining people waiting for deportation hearings is unnecessary, USA Today reported. "They shouldn't stop at releasing hundreds," Carlos Garcia, executive director of the Arizona-based Puente Human Rights Movement, told USA Today. "They should close the entire unnecessary immigration detention system."
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