Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing, said the agency released a total of 2,228 illegal immigrants from local jails “throughout the country” between Feb. 9 and March 1 for “solely budgetary reasons.”
For the first time, he explained the kinds of detainees that were sprung from local jails — he said they included detainees held on theft charges, financial criminals and drunken drivers.
“In some cases, multiple DUIs,” Morton acknowledged. He also said 10 individuals labeled as “Level 1” offenders — the most serious classification — were released, but that four have since been brought back into custody. That category can include assault cases but Morton said the detainees were mostly in for financial offenses. Morton stressed that the releases were made on a case-by-case basis and not “willy-nilly.”
“There are no mass releases of dangerous criminals under way or any plan for the future,” he said. But the subcommittee chairman, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, claimed the detainees could still pose a “risk” and questioned why ICE didn’t seek additional authority to move around its budgeted money.
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