Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC. Credit: AP
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) grilled ICE Director John Morton and DHS officials about the release of thousands of illegal immigrants from detention, including Level I violators (aggravated felons). The Obama administration has claimed that sequestration forced them to release the detainees.
"What is a Level I violator?" Gowdy asked Morton.
"First, obviously I disagree about your characterization about these being--" Morton began.
"That's fine. You can use your time to disagree with my characterization, don't use mine. What is a Level I violator," Gowdy shot back.
Morton explained Level I violators are "aggravated felons." He added that eight Level I violators were released, but after faulty computer records and a "mistake," four were put back into detention.
"If it's $122 a day to house four Level I aggravated felons, then releasing them saves you, what, about $600 a day?" Gowdy pressed. "You can't find $600 anywhere else in your budget?" He did not get a straight answer to the question.
When asked who made the decision to release the detainees, Morton said ICE Executive Associate Director Gary Mead made the call. However, Morton argued that to the best of his knowledge, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was not part of the decision to release the illegal immigrants.
"If the release of aggravated felons does not rise to the level of something that the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should know about, what does rise to that level?" Gowdy said.
"Listen, we release people everyday...We release thousands of people every month," Morton replied, later admitting that "many" illegal immigrants who are repeat DUI offenders have also been released.
Watch Gowdy take Morton to task over the release of detainees below:
The congressman from South Carolina also grilled DHS officials. Watch the interaction:
This story has been updated.