House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday blasted the decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release hundreds of jailed illegal immigrants and blaming federal budget cuts.
“It’s very hard for me to believe that they can’t find cuts elsewhere in their agency,” Boehner (R-Ohio) told CBS News. “I frankly think this is outrageous…I can’t believe that they can’t find the kind of savings they need out of that department short of letting criminals go free.”
ICE officials said they have released “several hundred” immigrants awaiting deportation because they couldn’t afford to hold them with an expected round of spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the week.
“In order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels, ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding,” agency spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said in a statement Tuesday. “As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release.”
The announcement came after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had warned that the $85 million in cuts, known as the sequester, could affect detention policy, according to the Washington Post.
“I’m supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration,” Napolitano said Monday. “How do I pay for those?”
According to the Post, ICE said it’s not dropping its immigration cases against the released detainees and that they will continue to prosecute and monitor them outside detention facilities.
“All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety,” Christensen said.