Barring a last minute agreement, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that were included in the Budget Control Act will go into effect on Friday, affecting everything from food safety inspections, to HIV testing kits, and domestic violence programs. On Monday, Immigration of Customs Enforcement even began releasing some 10,000 nonviolent detainees from Immigration Detention Centers, citing the looming budget cuts. “I’m supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “How do I pay for those?”
Republicans — who have remained silent on the cuts that would effect health care and education programs — immediately expressed outrage, arguing that the Obama administration was purposely releasing immigrants to scare the public. “This is very hard for me to believe that they can’t find cuts elsewhere in their agency,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in an interview with CBS. “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.”
Taxpayers are forking over roughly $5.1 billion to the private prison industry every year to pay for detention centers, which hold thousands of immigrants who have not been convicted on any crime.
At around $164 per day per immigrant in detention, the centers are a huge burden on the U.S. economy and are home to multiple human rights violations.
The AP reports that Executive Associate Director at ICE, Gary Mead, resigned Wednesday after the White House revealed that they did not know about the release of immigrants from detention centers:
Mead had told co-workers of his resignation in the email sent Tuesday, hours after U.S. officials had confirmed that a few hundred illegal immigrants facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to budget cuts.
President Barack Obama’s spokesman said Wednesday the White House was never consulted but described the immigrants as “low-risk, non-criminal detainees.”
ICE almost immediately disputed the report, saying that it was “inaccurate and misleading,” since Mead had been planning to retire before the detainee release.