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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, center, testifies before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee in Washington, D.C.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, center, testifies before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images
Backpedaling, the Obama administration is now admitting that it released more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants from immigration jails because of budget contraints prompted by the sequester.
Earlier, the Associated Press ran a story citing the number, but officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcements said the number was actually in the hundreds. The 2,000 number included routine ins and outs, ICE said in a statement disputing the AP report.
But today, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, told a congressional panel the agency released 2,228 people from immigration detention centers across the country for "solely budgetary reasons."
The AP adds:
"After the administration had challenged the AP's reporting, ICE said it didn't know how many people had been released for budget reasons but would review its records.
"Morton, who testified with two other agency officials, told lawmakers that the decision to release the immigrants was not discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He said the pending automatic cuts known as sequestration was 'driving in the background.'"
As we reported, Republican lawmakers criticized the administration for the move. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said the release of immigrants was "outrageous."
"Morton said that although the most serious offender category can include people convicted of aggravated felonies, many of those released were facing financial crimes," the AP reports. "Those released include immigrants who had faced multiple drunken driving offenses, misdemeanor crimes and traffic offenses, Morton said."