Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a Tuesday release that she was “appalled” at the Department of Homeland Security for releasing illegal immigrants being held in jails.
DHS said the illegal immigrants were being let go because of impending federal budget cuts, but Brewer is not buying it.
“This is pure political posturing and the height of absurdity given that the releases are being granted before the federal ‘sequestration’ cuts have even gone into effect,” she said in the release.
Gillian Christensen, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, said ICE has reviewed “several hundred cases” of immigrants being held in jails around the country and released them in the last week. They have been “placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release,” she said.
Brewer said the decision makes a “mockery” of the American immigration system and it risks the safety of Americans.
“We cannot let public safety and the rule of law be collateral damage of the president’s failed leadership to pass a budget.”
Tuesday’s announcement of jail releases is the first tangible impact of the looming budget cuts for DHS.
The Obama administration has been issuing dire warnings about the impact of the sequestration and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters at the White House Monday that across-the-board cuts would impact the department’s core operations, including border security and airport screening operations.
She also warned that DHS might not be able to afford to keep the 34,000 immigration jail beds mandated by Congress. On average last week, there were 30,773 people being held in ICE jails.
“I don’t think we can maintain the same level of security at all places around the country with sequester as without sequester,” said Napolitano, adding that the impact would be “`like a rolling ball. It will keep growing.”
According to the National Immigration Forum, it costs the government about $164 a day to keep an illegal immigrant facing deportation jailed. In a report on immigration detention costs last year the advocacy group said costs for supervised release can range from about 30 cents to $14 a day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.