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Detainees released: Could that hurt immigration reform? (+video)

Hundreds of immigration detainees deemed low risk have been released – part of a national game of chicken over the 'sequester.’ But the move could have consequences for immigration reform.

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“If the president’s idea of how to manage our federal government is to release [thousands] of people who have been detained – and most of the people who have been detained are not just illegally present in the United States, but they’ve committed some kind of a criminal act in addition to that – that seems to me to be a pretty misguided approach to how you save money in that agency,” Representative Goodlatte said.

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According to The New York Times, several high-ranking Republicans "shrugged off" the release as part of an ongoing number of administration scare tactics designed to undermine those Republicans who don't mind seeing the automatic cuts go into effect.

The situation is a peek into the GOP's internecine warfare, where especially tea party hard-liners on spending and immigration are at loggerheads with establishment Republicans pushing for immigration reform and a sequester deal that may include a tax hike.

"One of the things you've got right now is that the [GOP] establishment understands that they've got to get something done on immigration, which is why they're taking a relatively low-key approach to the detainee releases," Brown-Gort says. "They don't want the base riled up on this right now. They need them to be quiet."

It may be too late.

In Arizona, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said on NPR Wednesday morning, "You don't have to be a detective to figure out that likely this is a weapon in [the sequestration] fight." He added, "A lot of criminal illegals were released ... onto streets and neighborhoods in my county, and that's not OK."

House Speaker John Boehner, Obama's chief adversary in the sequester debate, couldn't hold back, either.

"This is very hard for me to believe, that they can't find cuts elsewhere in their agency," Mr. Boehner said on CBS Tuesday. "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."

Also on Tuesday, the senior DHS official in charge of arresting and deporting illegal immigrants informed his staff of his retirement, the Associated Press reported. Gary Mead will be leaving at the end of April, according to an e-mail to his staff that was obtained by AP. He apparently told senior DHS leaders several weeks ago of his plans.

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