Obama Administration Released over 600 Illegal Immigrants with Criminal Convictions

Sharyl Attkisson, Daily Signal, August 12, 2014

More than 600 convicted criminals, including felons, were among thousands of illegal immigrants freed under the Obama administration in advance of 2013 budget cuts mandated under sequestration.

That’s according to a new report today from the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the IG’s report, at least two-dozen “aliens” were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement even though they were in a “mandatory detention category.” (After an internal review, ICE later redetained them.)

The report provides a scathing portrayal of budget mismanagement and flawed processes at the highest levels inside the nation’s immigration enforcement agency.

Politically Motivated Decisions?

The atmosphere leading up to sequestration in early 2013 was politically charged. President Obama claimed the automatic budget cuts would hurt the economy, health care and emergency responders, and that federal prosecutors would have to “let criminals go.”

Republicans accused the administration of trying to create the appearance of a crisis by making high-profile cuts they claimed were unnecessary, such as halting White House public tours and mass-releasing illegal immigrants.

During the three weeks leading up to sequestration, from Feb. 9 to March 1, ICE released 2,226 immigrant detainees—617 of whom had criminal convictions. Approximately 1,450 were freed the last weekend before sequestration. The field offices that released the most criminal convicts include Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago.

‘Sharp and Immediate Reduction’

It was Radha Sekar, ICE’s chief financial Officer, who decided on the “sharp and immediate reduction in detention bed space,” according to the IG. The report did not describe other officials or processes involved in approving and implementing Sekar’s decision.

{snip} ICE was strapped by a stark increase in illegal immigrant apprehensions and had not developed contingency plans to address its budget shortfall.

About a week before sequestration, Sekhar notified the White House Office of Management and Budget of ICE’s funding problem and requested $22 million. But ICE inexplicably moved forward with the mass releases without waiting to hear whether the White House would provide the requested funds that would make the releases unnecessary.

{snip}

Misinformation Provided to Congress and the Public

When the media and Congress began asking questions about the controversial releases in February and March of 2013, the IG says ICE executive leadership rushed answers and, in doing so, gave “inaccurate” information to Congress and the public.

In March 2013, when the Associated Press reported the administration had released more than 2,000 immigrants over a three-week period, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano stated the AP story was “not really accurate” and that it had developed “its own mythology.”

“Several hundred [releases] are related to sequester, but it wasn’t thousands,” Napolitano stated incorrectly on March 4, 2013.

Nine days later, ICE director John Morton testified to Congress that his agency had, indeed, “released 2,228 aliens” (later revised to 2,226).

{snip}

That much appears to be true. Today’s IG report states, “We obtained no evidence ICE sought or received guidance about the timing or nature of the detainee budgetary releases from [Napolitano] or the Executive Office of the President.”

Moreover, according to the report, ICE attorneys reviewed the releases and concluded the agency made reasonable decisions given the short time frame.

{snip}

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