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Leaked memo shows 5,000 detainees could be released under budget cuts, says Rep. Goodlatte

An internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo obtained by the House Judiciary Committee says that ICE has developed plans to release 5,000 detained criminal aliens by the end of March 2013 to reduce the agency’s costs under forced budget cuts.

The document was released by committee chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on March 5.  

“As of February 15, 2013, the document shows that ICE had roughly 31,000 illegal immigrants and criminal aliens in detention -- already below the 34,000 mandated by Congress -- and planned to reduce that number to less than 26,000 by March 31, 2013,” said a statement by Goodlatte’s office. “According to sources, roughly 2,000 criminal aliens may have already been released so far,” it added.

ICE had said that “hundreds” of non-criminal aliens had been released in mid-February ahead of the “sequestration” budget cuts.

Goodlatte said the recently-revealed document shows “cold calculations” by ICE to release “thousands of criminal aliens” onto U.S. streets without consideration of the safety of Americans. “

“Clearly, there are better ways to save money than to release criminals onto the streets,” said Goodlatte.

Money-saving alternatives to the release, he said, could include reducing staff bonuses and performance awards and using unspent funds from inefficient state and local grant programs.  Goodlatte maintained that regardless of the sequestration cuts, DHS has “plenty” of funds to pay for the detention of criminal aliens, but is using the cuts to “promote their political agenda than as an opportunity to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Goodlatte’s statement said DHS has carried, or will carry, forward billions of dollars in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.  Last year, said the statement, the DHS announced an unobligated balance of over $8 billion.  The Office of Management and Budget projected that at the end of fiscal year 2013, DHS would have more than $9 billion in unobligated funds.  Second, said the statement, the agency has at least $70 million in unobligated user fee balances they could reprogram if they were to fall short. And third, the Office of Management and Budget has not fully apportioned all of ICE’s funding for this year yet—$22 million is still to come.

Goodlatte said the Judiciary Committee plans a hearing on what he called a “problematic situation.”

The forced $85 billion in budget cuts became effective on March 1. Their implementation has since fostered a partisan back-and-forth over their ultimate impact, with Republicans minimizing it and Democrats maximizing it. For instance on March 5, the White House cancelled its program of public tours of the first residence citing the budget reductions. However, at the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. at the Capitol building, where Republicans control the House of Representatives, public tours of the building remain open.


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