WASHINGTON -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), an immigration hardliner who signed into law one of the toughest anti-unauthorized immigration laws in the country, said on Friday that the Obama administration may have been targeting her state directly by releasing immigrant detainees around the country.
"I personally believe that it could be payback," she said on Fox News. "It could be 'punish Arizona, make them squirm.' They're pushing back on what we're pushing on."
She went on to say the Obama administration seems to be doing "everything in their power" to punish Arizona for its S.B. 1070 immigration law.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement released several hundred undocumented immigrants from detention on Monday, which officials said was for budgetary reasons. They will remain in the removal process, but are now under less costly alternatives to detention. All of those released are either non-criminals or were arrested for low-level crimes, according to ICE.
Immigrants were transferred to alternatives to detention in a number of states, not just Arizona.
The release has prompted a firestorm from conservatives, who argue the move puts the public in danger and is a ploy from the Obama administration to push Congress into a deal to avert across-the-board cuts from sequestration. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the decision came from ICE officials in the field, not the White House. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made a similar assertion, and said she did not know about the release until it had already happened.
Brewer, who said earlier this week that releasing immigrant detainees was "appalling" and "pure political posturing," told Fox News it was troubling that neither the White House nor Napolitano had said they knew about the decision.
"I absolutely do not know who is responsible, but somebody is responsible, and, you know, it's simply a duck and cover mode," she said. "Our country is in chaos. Who is in charge? Who is answering the questions? What is going on?"