Reports that the federal government released thousands of previously detained undocumented immigrants last week from detention centers because of budget cuts have prompted a harsh rebuke from Gov. Rick Perry.
On Monday, the governor asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton in a letter to provide details to state and local authorities about the released immigrants, who the federal government said were deemed low-level offenders. The Associated Press reported that the administration, citing the looming budget cuts due to sequestration, released thousands of immigrants and not only hundreds as previously stated by ICE.
Perry said the release of the undocumented immigrants was "unconscionable," adding that the move "far surpasses the grandstanding Americans have come to associate with sequestration talks by potentially jeopardizing the safety of 26 million Texans." He also targeted what he called the federal government's failure to ensure border security.
“The lack of transparency and coordination between your agency and the states and citizens most affected by this decision is appalling. Americans deserve better from our federal government,” Perry wrote. “Aside from allowing this federally sponsored jailbreak to occur, ICE has also failed to provide any information regarding the number of detainees released, their countries of origin, locations where these individuals have been released, and the reasons they were detained despite repeated requests from my office.”
Texas is home to several immigration detention centers, including some that are privately run. It also utilizes the Secure Communities program, which checks the fingerprints of those arrested against a federal database to determine if the person detained is deportable under current immigration laws.
The release came just days before the across-the-board budget cuts that took effect Friday. State and federal lawmakers sounded alarm bells early on about what the cuts could mean for border security and trade. The drawdown could mean as many as 5,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents and 2,750 Customs and Border Protection agents could be furloughed.
The massive release also came the same week the Government Accountability Office released a report stating that violent crime in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico fell steadily from 2004 to 2011.