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Public Statements

Letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano: Release of Detained Immigrants

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Representative Doug Collins (R-GA) has submitted a follow-up letter to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, regarding the decision made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to release criminal and illegal aliens from federal custody. Collins' initial letter to Security Napolitano was sent on March 7, 2013 and was co-signed by Georgia Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, Phil Gingrey, Tom Graves and Paul Broun.

Recently publicized documents have shed light on the process by which ICE officials chose to release these criminal and illegal immigrants to reduce agency overhead costs. Specific to Georgia, these records confirm that the Atlanta Field Office has released 128 illegal aliens so far from four different detention facilities. Of those released in Georgia, 53 are deemed criminal illegal aliens. The release coincided with a detention bed availability sitting well below the average daily requirement.

"If the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of keeping Americans safe, it doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of it at this point in time," said Collins. "Playing games with the safety of our country's wellbeing is unacceptable. It's cowardly and dangerous, and the Obama Administration should beheld accountable for allowing this type of behavior to occur in the first place.

"President Obama has turned his political scare tactics into perilous actions that undermine the safety of the American people. Every hardworking taxpayer deserves to know who approved the release of these criminals, and what the thought process was behind doing so. I find it incredibly hard to believe the Department of Homeland Security had no other options besides discharging criminals out into our communities, and I have made a commitment to people of Georgia's Ninth District to find the answers to these important questions."

The full letter reads as follows:

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano,

Over the past few weeks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) undertook extraordinary measures to comply with cuts mandated by sequestration. The agency's decision to mass release illegal aliens detained in federal custody under the guise of budget cuts is both puzzling and alarming.

According to internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents obtained by the Associated Press, ICE has systematically released over 2,000 illegal aliens since at least February 15. Despite Administration claims that only "non-criminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories" were released, other reports have detailed a number of criminal aliens released through this maneuver. We are especially Concerned that the AP report indicates a significant number of illegal aliens were released in Georgia.

Although ICE must cut 5.3 percent of its operating budget because ofthe sequester, releasing illegal immigrants back into the general public is an inappropriate way to save money and violates the DHS mission of ensuring the safety and security ofthe American people. Last Monday you said, "We're doing our very best to minimize the impacts of sequester, but there's only so much I can do." We fail to see how releasing 2,000 illegal aliens before sequestration went into effect on March 1 nor plans to release 3,000 more during March (as reported by AP), "minimize[d] the impacts of sequester."

In fact, your repeated failure to be forthcoming about the releases gives the impression that the decision was politically motivated. Specifically, when you testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 14 about the impact of sequestration on DHS you spoke of cuts to Border Patrol agents and never mentioned that ICE was going to start releasing detained aliens the next day.

Additionally, we are highly skeptical of your claim that a low-level ofñcial orchestrated this extraordinary decision without your knowledge or approval. "Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career ofñcials in the you told ABC News.

Furthermore, other Administration officials continue to deceive the public on the severity of this decision. For example, White House spokesman Jay Carney said last Wednesday "a few hundred" illegal aliens were released. Then, on Friday ICE spokesman Brian Hale said, "lCE reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget and
placed several hundred individuals on methods of supervision less costly than detention."

We believe ICE should prioritize detention of illegal aliens, and find other methods of minimizing the impact of the mandatory sequestration cuts. For example, in 2012, ICE opened up a state-of-the-art detention facility in Karnes City, Texas. This facility contains a library with free Internet access, cable television, an indoor gym with basketball courts, soccer and equipment for beach volleyball. The cost to build this complex was estimated to be over 30 million dollars.

In an effort to better understand how DHS implemented its plan for dealing with sequestration, we respectfully request that you provide detailed responses to the following questions:

(l) When was the decision made to release illegal aliens because of sequestration and what was the timeframe for the releases to occur? If there is a memorandum or other document detailing the specifics ofthe program, please include a copy.

(2) How many illegal aliens were released '1n Georgia and how many have criminal convictions? What are the speeif'le crimes committed by the illegal aliens released in Georgia?

(3) ICE spokesman Brian Hale was quoted in the AP story as saying, "At this point, we don't anticipate additional releases, but that could change." Has DHS officially ended the program to release illegal aliens because of sequestration or is it only temporarily suspended?

(4) What is the oversight policy for tracking the released illegal aliens? What are the repercussions if an illegal alien violates the terms of hisfher release?

(5) How much has DHS reduced its budget by releasing these illegal aliens? What are the costs and details of all "alternatives t0 detention" employed by ICE?

(6) Will DHS implement any budget cuts to facility maintenance, equipment maintenance, communications, or travel?

(7) Is there an ofñcial DHS policy to reduce the number of detention beds from a Congressionally-mandated 34,000 t0 less than 26,000?

(8) lf DHS gets its budget restored to pre-sequestration levels, will the released illegal aliens be ordered back to detention centers or remain in the general public?

We respectfully request that you provide your responses to these questions no later than March 31, 2013. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and timely attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Doug Collins Lynn Westmoreland
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Ninth District of Georgia Third District of Georgia

Phil Gingrey Tom Graves
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Eleventh District of Georgia Fourteenth District of Georgia

Paul Broun
Member of Congress
Tenth District of Georgia


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