Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tough questions about the recent jail release of 2,000 illegal immigrants awaiting deportation hearings, several of which reside in McCain’s home state of Arizona. The Obama Administration reportedly had plans to release another 3,000 illegal immigrants in the weeks ahead.
“Local sources have raised the possibility that some of the detainees had committed serious crimes such as weapons offenses, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, forgery, aggravated assault against police officers and child molestation,” wrote McCain in a letter to Napolitano. “The American public needs to be confident that...the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in fact did not release detainees who will be a danger to the public.”
McCain said the Obama Administration owes Americans an explanation as to who was responsible for making the decision.
“Who within the ICE [Immigration Customs Enforcement] chain of command has the authority to decide to release a particular criminal alien and what is the written policy limiting the officer’s discretion?” asked McCain in his letter to Napolitano. “What plans are in place to ensure illegal aliens are being detained and we do not return to the days of Border Patrol ‘catch and release'?”
Napolitano has previously stated that the controversial decision was the result of sequester cuts.
"We're doing our very best to minimize the impacts of sequester, but there's only so much I can do," said Napolitano. "You know, I'm supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration. How do I pay for those?"
Republicans and others say Homeland Security’s decision was merely a public relations stunt designed to protect the agency’s budget from sequester cuts by inflicting maximum political pain. The move began causing the Obama White House headaches when the Associated Press revealed that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney erroneously claimed that the Administration had released just a “few hundred” illegal immigrants who were “low-risk, noncriminal detainees” when the true number was 2,000.
The Alternatives to Detention (ATD) “supervised release” program, which was instituted under President George W. Bush, allows illegal aliens facing deportation to remain on the streets while awaiting deportation proceedings. In the past, the ATD program has produced tragic outcomes. A previous Judicial Watch investigation revealed that Bolivian national Carlos Martinelly-Montano killed a Virginia nun and injured two others in 2010 while driving drunk while participating in the ATD program.
With McCain and others turning up the spotlight on the White House and Napolitano, the Obama Administration has begun pointing fingers for the illegal immigrant jail release; the Administration claims the decision was made by career agency officials concerned about sequester-related budget cuts.
Look for lawmakers to dig deeper on the issue next week when Napolitano appears on Capitol Hill to testify on cybersecurity.