WASHINGTON -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials insisted on Wednesday that there was no connection between the retirement of Enforcement and Removal Operations Director Gary Mead and the release earlier this week of hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention.
The Associated Press reported earlier Wednesday that Mead announced his resignation in an email on Tuesday, "hours after U.S. officials had confirmed that a few hundred illegal immigrants facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to budget cuts." The report does not say outright that the two items were related, but it has been interpreted as such by some observers.
ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Mead had announced his plans to retire "several weeks ago" to senior leadership at the agency. Mead will retire at the end of April, she said in a statement.
"The Associated Press’ report is inaccurate and misleading," she said.
The agency on Monday released "several hundred" immigrant detainees who were deemed low priority, either because they were non-criminals or low-level offenders. The move did not free them from deportation; all will stay in the removal process and could be deported based on the decision of an immigration judge. ICE cited looming budget cuts in its announcement that some immigrants had been released.
White House spokesman Jay Carney sought to distance the administration from the move to release the detainees, saying on Wednesday that the decision came from ICE.
UPDATE: 5:20 p.m. -- The Associated Press later tweeted a correction to its original report that Mead had quit:
CORRECTION: Homeland Security official retires after illegal immigrants freed: apne.ws/YAFtQ8 (previous tweet said he quit)
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 27, 2013