Remember when the Obama Administration attempted to make the 2013 government budget sequestration look like a bigger deal than it actually was by shuttering national monuments and keeping elderly veterans from visiting war memorials? Well, the Administration also used the feigned crisis to further its immigration agenda by releasing thousands of illegal immigrant detainees, including some convicted felons.
According to the IG report, a combination of increased apprehension of illegal immigrants in 2012 and forthcoming 2013 budgetary shortfalls — worsened by a glaring lack of a financial contingency plan — led top Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to deem a “sharp and immediate reduction in detention bed space” as the best plan to remain solvent.
As a result, Administration officials made the decision to release 2,226 detained illegal immigrants — including 617 with criminal convictions on record — as the drama surrounding the government shutdown reached critical mass in 2013.
The agency’s budgetary justification for releasing the criminals was faulty, according to the IG report. The agency is required to be capable of maintaining an average daily illegal immigrant detainee population of 34,000. Congress covers the cost of 31,300 detainees. ICE is expected to obtain funding for the remaining detainees via budgetary juggling or requesting additional funding.
But as funding issues loomed in January 2013, ICE leadership seems to have jumped at the chance to release detainees rather than balancing the agency’s books.
“Only after House appropriations staff informed ICE’s Chief Financial Officer on January 31, 2013, that maintaining 34,000 average daily population is a statutory requirement did ICE executive leadership realize ICE would need to obtain additional funding to cover the detention budget shortfall,” the IG report notes.
But ICE chief financial officer Radha Sekar, who was ultimately responsible for freeing the detainees, moved forward with the releases in February and March, even before it was clear whether the White House Office of Management and Budget would provide additional funds. The reason for the move remains unclear.
“We were not able to determine why ICE executive leadership did not wait for OMB to make a decision on releasing additional funding,” says the IG report.
Raising further questions about the stated budgetary reason behind the detainee releases, 1,450 of the illegal immigrants were released during weekend hours. As a result, involved Federal employees received overtime pay at 23 of the 24 ICE facilities where illegal aliens were processed out.
ICE officials attempted to release the immigrants quietly into the U.S. to avoid public outrage; therefore, when news broke of the scheme, the political propaganda machine set into full motion at all levels of the Obama Administration.
In March 2013 Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano claimed that only hundreds, not thousands, of illegal immigrants were released. She also shrieked that the initial report — a product of The Associated Press — was inaccurate and hyperbolic.
As the border crisis continues, the IG report maintains that ICE is in no better place to deal with detained illegal immigrants now than it was in 2013:
Since the February 2013 releases, ICE has not improved communication or transparency with key stakeholders. Officials from DHS’ CFO said they have difficulty obtaining sufficient information from ICE’s CFO to conduct adequate oversight. The ERO officials we interviewed, including budget staff, said they did not have reliable information on available funding. ICE executive leadership’s ability to track expenditures and available funding has not improved. After the budgetary releases, DHS transferred funding from other DHS components to fund detention bed space. Despite this transfer, ERO officials said ICE executive leadership instructed them several times to increase detention populations and then release detainees.
While the report outlines outrageous immigration irresponsibility in 2013 on the Administration’s part, Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera suggested during a recent interview on Fox that releasing illegal aliens with criminal pasts has been institutionalized in the government’s handling of the current border invasion.
“If they have family in the United States, they’ll release them to the family, even if they’re admitted gang members,” he said. “We’ve had a couple that had admitted to murders in their home country. They were 17 years old, 16 years old, and the United States government thought it fit to release them to their parents here in the United States.
“Even if he’s a confirmed gang member, a confirmed criminal even by self-admission, we for some reason don’t send them back to their home country, we release them into our country.”