Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), like several other Republicans, went after President Barack Obama on Wednesday for the decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release some undocumented immigrants from detention ahead of potential across-the-board cuts from sequestration.
She called the measure "pure political posturing" that "represents a return to exactly the kind of catch-and-release procedures that have long made a mockery of our country’s immigration system," according to the Associated Press.
"I'm appalled to learn the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun to release hundreds of illegal aliens from custody, the first of potentially thousands to soon be freed under the guise of federal budget cuts," she said in a statement to Arizona's ABC 15.
ICE announced on Monday that it had reviewed a number of cases and decided to release undocumented immigrants from detention if they were either non-criminals or low-level offenders, keeping them in the system of deportation but using less costly alternatives to detention instead.
The release quickly drew fire from Republicans, some of whom argued it was a risk to public safety and illuminated the Obama administration's lack of seriousness about policing immigration.
"It's abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration," Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday. "By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the Administration is needlessly endangering American lives. It also undermines our efforts to come together with the Administration and reform our nation’s immigration laws. Unfortunately, this Administration has a poor record of enforcing our immigration laws and has routinely sought to undermine them."
ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said Monday that the measure would not remove anyone from the removal process and that those released would still be deported if ordered by an immigration judge. The move was meant to cut down costs, she said.
"In order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels, ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding," she said in a statement.
It costs between $122 and $164 to hold a single immigrant in detention each day, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, while alternatives such as parole or ankle bracelets are a fraction of that cost. Undocumented immigrants in most cases go through a normal criminal justice process -- including by serving time for major offenses -- before going into immigrant detention.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is working with the Senate "gang of eight" on an immigration reform plan, said he was "very concerned" about the release because "it's one of the first manifestations of this whole issue of sequester." Sequestration will go into effect on Friday if not averted by Congress, which has yet to find a compromise on dealing with the matter.
"I'm interested in the impact on national security," he told HuffPost. "Those people should not be released. There's a reason why they were incarcerated."