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Illegal immigrants released before sequester

February 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Several hundred illegal immigrants being held at deportation centers across the country have been released ahead of Friday, when $85 million in mandatory budget cuts are set to take effect in Washington.

In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said, "as fiscal uncertainty remains over the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, ICE has reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget."

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano said it may not be able to keep the 34,000 immigration jail beds mandated by Congress.

The move has some outraged, saying the release plays to the President Barack Obama's political agenda on the sequester before the full impact is known and puts lives at risk.

"It's kind of Frankensteinian, it's opening the doors to let folks out when there are so many other places to cut that don't involve public safety or national security,"said Karen Kenny of the San Fernando Valley Patriots. "

ICE says the immigrants released were considered low-risk, adding that, "priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety."

Immigration reform supporters say the move proves what they've been arguing all along.

"This looks like it should have been the policy all along, that the administration is now admitting they have been over-detaining individuals," said Victor Viramontes of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "By conceding that these individuals pose no public safety concern, the question is, why were they in custody in the first place?"

ICE said the detainees released have been placed on less expensive methods of supervision and must adhere to strict guidelines. They also still face deportation proceedings.

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