A number of illegal immigrants have been freed from lock-ups across the country and, the I-Team has learned, in The Chicago area. U.S. immigration agency officials refuse to say how many or from where, but now we know that looming federal budget cuts have resulted in the release of many detainees in and around Chicago.
Congress requires that immigration authorities have 34,000 beds in facilities across the country for detainees. With $85 billion in federal budget cuts about to take hold, officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement say they have set free low-risk detainees, and as resources are trimmed, they may release many more from deportation centers.
It is a move that has outraged some.
"It's kind of Frankensteinian, 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 Tea Party Patriot Karen Kenney.
Freeing of the detainees from Chicago facilities and elsewhere has been orderly, according to ICE sources, with some put on supervised release by personal recognizance bonds; or in others, illegal immigrants must report in person to ICE officers or are subject to electronic or telephone monitoring.
ICE administrators say such releases are a result of fiscal uncertainty and the need for detention levels that will stay within budget.
"This looks like it should have been the public policy all along, that the administration is now admitting they have been over-detaining individuals," said Victor Viramontes, who works for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "By conceding that those individuals pose no public safety concern, the question is, why were they in custody in the first place?"
Friday is the start of Out of the Shadows Month, a national movement of undocumented immigrants that that began in Chicago three years ago. A major anti-deportation march and rally is set for Chicago on Sunday, March 10.
The illegal immigrants who have been released are in the process of being deported.
Federal officials say deportation will move forward.
Critics of the policy say deportation won't happen if the freed individuals are on the lam.