In one of the most politically despicable moves ever perpetrated by a sitting administration, federal immigration officials have released hundreds of illegal aliens from prison in anticipation of budget cuts produced by the sequester. “As fiscal uncertainty remains over the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, ICE has reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE’s current budget,” said agency spokeswoman Gillian M. Christensen in a statement. Immigration officials further warned that even more releases are possible, if the anticipated cuts are realized.
In Arizona, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who revealed that more than 500 inmates were released in his county alone, put this ploy in the proper perspective. "President Obama would never release 500 criminal illegals to the streets of his hometown, yet he has no problem with releasing them in Arizona. The safety of the public is threatened and the rule of law discarded as a political tactic in this sequester battle," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) were equally incensed. "This is very hard for me to believe that they can’t find cuts elsewhere in their agency," said Boehner in an interview on Tuesday night. "I frankly think this is outrageous. And I’m looking for more facts, but I can’t believe that they can’t find the kind of savings they need out of that department short of letting criminals go free." Goodlatte concurred. "It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration,” he said in a statement. “By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives.”
Yet it gets even more cynical. The "most transparent administration in history" is not only releasing inmates, it is refusing to say how many have been released, and where those releases are taking place. Federal officials claim that the detainees are still being monitored, even as they continue to face charges. They also insisted that only nonviolent offenders will be let go.
That first claim is utterly disingenuous, if not an outright lie. How is an agency ostensibly so "devastated" by budget cuts that it is forced to release criminals into the streets better equipped to monitor individuals in numerous locations, as opposed to keeping track of a group of incarcerated detainees in far fewer locations?
As for only nonviolent offenders being released, it seems the definition of that term is also somewhat elastic. The New York Times profiled one "nonviolent" detainee named Anthony Orlando Williams. Mr. Williams became an illegal alien after overstaying his visa in 1991. In 2010, he was detained by a deputy sheriff in Gwinnett County, GA, not for being in the country illegally, but for violating his probation stemming from a 2005 conviction--for simple assault, simple battery and child abuse.
Yet ICE insists it has no choice, claiming the “current fiscal climate” has forced it to do a spending review, part of which includes examining who they have detained. “As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release,” ICE said in a statement.
The notion that the "current fiscal climate" has forced ICE's hand is ludicrous. The entire amount of the reductions engendered by the sequester this year is $85 billion, out of projected budget of $3.5 trillion. Yet even the $85 billion may be overstated. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), "Discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year as a direct result of those procedures [sequestration]; additional reductions in outlays attributable to the cuts in 2013 funding will occur in later years." In other words, the true cost of the sequester for FY2013 is only $44 billion. Yet even that number is misleading: regardless of any so-called reduction in spending, the federal government will spend $15 billion more this year than it did last year--and a full 30 percent more than it did as little as six years ago.
Unsurprisingly, advocates for illegal aliens favor the releases, maintaining that there are better and more cost effective alternatives to incarceration. They are further urging the Obama administration to maintain their current enforcement priorities, which include the refusal to arrest illegal aliens accused of low-level crimes, or ICE administrative violations.
Yet this latest effort may backfire. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who contended that "the administration is using the sequester as a convenient excuse to bow to political pressure from the amnesty groups,” warned that such a move “lessened the chances” of comprehensive immigration reform. “With this new action, the administration has further demonstrated that it has no commitment to enforcing the law and cannot be trusted to deliver on any future promises of enforcement,” he added.
In a coordinated scare tactic, DHS Secretary Janet A. Napolitano on Monday warned that, if the sequester occurs, as many as 5000 border agents will also be furloughed, increasing the chances that even more, and possibly more dangerous, illegal aliens will be roaming the countryside. “I don’t think we can maintain the same level of security,” Ms. Napolitano contended.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) cut right through the manufactured hysteria. In a letter sent to Ms. Napolitano, he outlined a host of alternative cuts Ms. Napolitano could make. Yet the most telling part of that letter was the revelation that DHS will have approximately $9 billion in unspent funds by the end of FY2013, "raising the question of why we would not start reclaiming these funds," Coburn wrote.
Napolitano is not the only government official with options. Barack Obama has the authority to prioritize the sequester cuts in any manner he chooses. Yet this is what he said in 2011 when the Congressional Supercommittee was formed in a failing effort to avoid sequestration:
Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that Congressional Republicans are considering ways to give Obama an off ramp, as in the power to determine how the cuts are administered. The president has dismissed those efforts. The dismissal follows a Wednesday statement by White House press secretary Jay Carney claiming that ICE made the decision to release illegals "without any input from the White House."
If that is true (which already strains credulity), then why doesn't the same president who issued an executive order granting legal status to nearly a million illegal aliens last August, order ICE to stop releasing illegals from incarceration?
The answer is simple. Once again, the President of the United States has made it clear that he and his administration are prepared to implement their agenda by any means necessary. In this case, Obama, along with DHS and ICE officials, have now demonstrated that they are more than willing to potentially endanger American lives, rather than accept a "cut" that merely reduces the overall increase in government spending. The president undoubtedly sees such tactics as "negotiation." Extortion is more like it.
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