House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte on Tuesday released an internal U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) document showing that the agency planned to release thousands of illegal aliens from detention centers in response to cuts resulting from sequestration.
The document revealed that from Feb. 15 to March 31, 2013, ICE planned to release 1,000 detainees a week, reducing their detainee numbers from 30,748 to 26,748 — well below the 34,000 mandated by Congress, Goodlatte noted.
“An internal document obtained by the House Judiciary Committee shows that Administration officials at ICE prepared cold calculations to release thousands of criminal aliens onto the streets and did not demonstrate any consideration of the impact this decision would have on the safety of Americans,” Goodlatte said in a statement, asserting that the decision “undermines” the Department of Homeland Security’s mission and makes Americans “less safe.”
ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez, however, explained in an emailed statement that ICE law enforcement officials have been working to do the best job they can with the resources allotted to them by Congress.
“With sequestration now in effect, ICE must reduce expenditures by $294,000,000 across all of its programs, which represents a 5% cut to all accounts across ICE’s budget and will reduce ICE’s actual annual detention budget going forward,” Gonzalez wrote. “ICE will continue to manage its budget in a prioritized manner, ensuring that the focus remains on serious criminal offenders and others who pose a threat to public safety.”
She stressed that each individual is reviewed on a “case-by-case basis” to release those detainees “who posed the least threat to public safety, were not subject to mandatory detention and who were appropriate candidates for supervised release” and added that ICE is reviewing the releases to determine “which individuals were released due to normal fluctuations and which were released primarily due to the budgetary pressures of the continuing resolution and the sequester.”
Currently, ICE does not keep records on those detainees released largely due to budget constraints.