At a hearing today in Washington, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) questioned U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton about the agency's recent release of more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from detention. When asked why the Administration chose to release potentially dangerous detainees rather than reallocating funds from less critical programs, Director Morton could not provide a clear answer. Instead, he continued to blame budget cuts.
Congressman Smith issued a statement in response to Director Morton's testimony.
Congressman Smith: "Today's hearing examined whether the Obama administration's decision to release thousands of illegal immigrant detainees was sound policy or partisan politics. So far, it seems like the decision was politics as usual.
"ICE's decision to release 2,228 illegal immigrant detainees is a political agenda in search of a justification. Of those released, 159 have been convicted of committing a felony or multiple misdemeanors. This is a clear threat to the safety of Americans and ignores immigration law.
"The Obama administration would have the American people believe that budget cuts forced the release of these immigrants awaiting deportation. But options exist for the agency to maintain detention space and keep immigrants from being released into our communities. ICE could obtain approval from Congress to reprogram other funds for detention space or use over $100 million available in reserve accounts.
"The Administration's budget requests the last two years sought less detention space for a reason. The Obama administration has made a conscious decision to not enforce our immigration laws, which puts public safety at risk."