Wave of Immigrants Released Ahead of Looming Budget Cuts

Tuesday, 26 Feb 2013 02:18 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Federal officials have released scores of detainees from immigration detention centers nationwide — placing them on supervised release — to save money as huge budget cuts near in Washington.

But the Obama administration has not dropped the deportation cases against the immigrants despite the highly unusual move, The New York Times reports.

The releases have occurred in recent days, The Times reports. They were approved “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,” Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said in a statement.

The agency is under the Department of Homeland Security. The budget cuts, also called sequestration, are to take effect on Friday.

The ICE agency “is continuing to prosecute their cases in immigration court and, when ordered, will seek their removal from the country,” Christensen said.

The mass release — so many within so few days — appears to be unprecedented in recent memory, immigration advocates told The Times.

According to the newspaper, agency officials did not reveal the number of detainees released or where they occurred, but immigration advocates said detainees were released in areas such as Hudson County, N.J., Polk County, Texas, Broward County, Fla., and New Orleans. Releases took place at centers in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and New York as well, they said.

Under supervised release, defendants in immigration cases must abide by a strict reporting schedule that might include attending appointments at regional ICE offices and telephonic and electronic monitoring, immigration officials told The Times.

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