White House Denies Role in Immigrant Release

Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013 10:30 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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The White House denied on Wednesday that it had anything to do with the decision to release hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention centers, The Hill reports.

White House spokesman Jay Carney and a Department of Homeland Security official said the decision was made solely by career officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who did not request any participation from the White House.

“This was a decision made by career officials at ICE, without any input from the White House, as a result of fiscal uncertainty over the continuing resolution, as well as possible sequester,” saidWhite House spokesman Jay Carney said at Wednesday’s press briefing.

On Wednesday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas., sent a letter to ICE Director John Morton with a demand for information. In particular, Morton wants to know how many people were released, where they were released from and the specific reason why each of them was considered to be releasable.

“This decision reflects the lack of resource prioritization within the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is indicative of the department's weak stance on national security,” McCaul wrote in his letter.

McCaul also asked ICE to give the committee any and all plans it has for future releases, the reason why each illegal immigrant was initially detained and the length of his or her detention.

He has given ICE one week to reply.

ICE press secretary Barbara Gonzalez said that concerns about possible budget cuts due to sequestration led them to release “several hundred” illegal immigrants who are facing deportation from detention centers.

Their deportation cases will continue, but instead of more costly incarceration, they are being placed on various levels of supervised release until their cases are resolved.

She said ICE had received McCaul's letter and “will respond to him accordingly.”

On Tuesday, Gonzalez said that “fiscal uncertainty” concerning the federal government made it necessary to release the detainees “to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget.”

There is growing concern among a number of Republicans that the mass release of the illegal immigrants could undermine immigration reform talks with the White House.

A spokesman for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who, as part of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, is working on an immigration reform measure, told The Hill that the move won’t necessarily have a negative affect on discussions with the administration on the larger issue.

McCain did question whether the release of detained illegal immigrants was “the only way to save money?” in a tweet hours before talking with Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

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