Backlash grows over release of illegal immigrants; GOP wants to know who gave final approval

by
March 12, 2013

The Obama administration’s decision to release some immigrants awaiting deportation back into the community has spawned a furious backlash from Congress, where stunned lawmakers have besieged the Homeland Security Department with questions.

Department officials have described the move as a cost-savings measure required by the budget sequesters, but two years ago one top official testified to Congress that detaining immigrants is usually cheaper than releasing them.

As the questions build, so does pressure on Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano, who has not yet answered the requests, signed by dozens of Senate and House members, to detail who exactly has been released, why they were being held in the first place, and who gave final approval.

“It is frankly irresponsible that your agency chose releasing detained immigrants as its first effort to control spending,” a group of 37 House Republicans, led by Reps. Matt Salmon of Arizona and Duncan Hunter of California, said in a letter Friday.

On Monday, Sen. Daniel Coats, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees immigration, took to the Senate floor to say the department cannot duck his questions. He speculated that the release has already spurred a new wave of illegal immigration.

“I can see the traffickers pitching this to tens or hundreds of thousands of people, taking their money, getting them across the border, breaching the fence or tunneling under the fence or climbing over the fence,” Mr. Coats said.

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