Documents show more than 2,000 immigrants released; Coats challenges Napolitano
Staff and wire reports March 1, 2013 2:50PM
FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2103 file photo, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano briefs reporters at the White House in Washington. The Homeland Security Department released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation from immigration jails in recent weeks due to looming budget cuts and planned to release 3,000 more during March, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Updated: March 1, 2013 9:59PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation from immigration jails in recent weeks because of looming budget cuts, according to an Associated Press investigation. It also planned to release 3,000 more during March.
Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, on Friday demanded answers on the release from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
“Releasing detained illegal aliens and blaming it on imminent budget cuts when it appears ICE mismanaged its resources is outrageous and irresponsible,” said Coats in a letter. “I believe this unnecessary action has the potential to put communities at risk.”
The newly disclosed figures, cited in internal government budget documents reviewed by the AP, are significantly higher than what the Obama administration acknowledged this week as a “few hundred” illegal immigrants who were released under the budget-savings process.
The budget documents show that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement released roughly 1,000 illegal immigrants from its jails around the U.S. each week since at least Feb. 15. The agency’s field offices have reported more than 2,000 released before intense criticism this week led to a temporary shutdown of the plan.
The Coats letter demanded a written response from Napolitano by March 8 for a dozen questions. Among the questions Coats asked, “if additional funding can be found first within ICE or DHS for custody operations will these released individuals be returned to detention?”