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Public Statements

Letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano - Illegal Immigrants Released

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, today wrote to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano about the recent release of detained illegal immigrants. Over the past weekend, DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a number of illegal immigrants for budgetary reasons.

In his letter to Secretary Napolitano, Coats writes, "Releasing detained illegal aliens and blaming it on imminent budget cuts when it appears ICE mismanaged its resources is outrageous and irresponsible. I believe this unnecessary action has the potential to put communities at risk."

Coats also writes, "I am concerned that you have chosen to distance yourself from the actions of ICE by stating that, "Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field.' As Secretary of Homeland Security, you have a responsibility to oversee the proper management of the Department's resources. I believe you should have been on top of this situation and taken steps far earlier to prevent this action."

The full letter is included below:

The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

This past weekend U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated a precipitous action to reduce the population of illegal aliens detained by the U.S. Government for budgetary reasons. ICE spokesperson Gillian Christensen has stated, "As fiscal uncertainty remains over the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, ICE has reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget."

The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have known since September 28, 2012, exactly what level of resources were available for ICE under the Continuing Resolution (CR) through March 27, 2013. Given that ICE has adequate resources under the CR for its operations, I am concerned that proper steps were not taken to manage ICE resources across its various programs. Releasing detained illegal aliens and blaming it on imminent budget cuts when it appears ICE mismanaged its resources is outrageous and irresponsible. I believe this unnecessary action has the potential to put communities at risk.

Furthermore, I am concerned that you have chosen to distance yourself from the actions of ICE by stating that, "Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field." As Secretary of Homeland Security, you have a responsibility to oversee the proper management of the Department's resources. I believe you should have been on top of this situation and taken steps far earlier to prevent this action.

In an effort to sort out the facts regarding the Department's decision, I would appreciate responses to the following:

1) Please provide copies of all messages sent to Field Office Directors of the Enforcement and Removals Office on February 22, 2013, which included instructions to meet bed reduction targets by February 25, 2013, and triggered the release of detainees.

2) What triggered the ICE instruction to the field to reduce the detainee population by this date?

3) What is the total number of detainees released between February 22, 2013, and February 25, 2013, and exactly how many of these detainees were released solely due to budgetary reasons?

4) Provide the number of detainees released by field office due to budgetary reasons. Did any field office not achieve the targeted reductions?

5) How many of the released detainees were criminal aliens as defined under 8 U.S.C. 1226(c)?

6) Of the detainees released, provide the number placed on alternatives to detention, and the number placed on each level of monitoring.

7) Is there any agreement with the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) to prioritize the detainees recently released due to budgetary reasons over others in proceedings for the non-detained docket?

8) If additional funding can be found first within ICE or DHS for custody operations will these released individuals be returned to detention (and therefore the EOIR detained docket)?

9) Were any detainees apprehended by the Border Patrol included in these releases?

10) Does ICE plan to re-institute "catch and release" on the southwest border?

11) Have instructions been given to the field to reduce the intake/arrests of illegal aliens into detention?

12) Do you agree with the actions that were taken by ICE? If not, what steps are you taking to modify this policy?

Please provide your written responses to these questions by March 8, 2013.

Sincerely,

Daniel R. Coats
Ranking Member
Department of Homeland Security Subcommittee


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