The Obama administration contradicted itself yesterday, acknowledging to Congress that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails because of budget constraints during three weeks in February. Four deemed especially dangerous have been placed back in jail.
The administration had claimed only a "few hundred immigrants" were released for budgetary reasons, challenging as inaccurate an Associated Press report that more than 2,000 immigrants had been released and that 3,000 more would be released this month.
However, the director of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, testified Thursday that his agency released 2,228 illegal immigrants for what he called "solely budgetary reasons".
Morton and other agency officials spoke during a hearing by a House appropriations subcommittee. He 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".
"We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us," Morton told lawmakers. "This was not a White House call. I take full responsibility."