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Immigration officials tight-lipped about detainee release. What is known?

Here are the basics about the detainee release – from the terminology that immigration officials use to a glimpse into the kinds of people who have been released.

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“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," Perry wrote on Monday to John Morton, director of ICE. "The finger pointing at the highest levels of the Obama administration and unwillingness to take responsibility for this massive security threat is unacceptable.”

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Media organizations have tracked down some of those involved in the detainee release, giving some insight into the kinds of people ICE saw fit to release.

Anthony Orlando Williams, a Jamaican national in his 50s now staying in Stone Mountain, Ga., was thrown into detention three years ago for violating probation after a 2005 conviction of simple assault, simple battery, and child abuse, all tied to a domestic dispute, according to The New York Times. "I'm good, man. I'm free," he told the paper.

Another man probably released as part of the sequester move was Miguel Hernandez, a 19-year-old illegal immigrant who had been picked up in rural Georgia. "I'm not a criminal," Mr. Hernandez told CNN, although he noted that he thought some of those who were released along with him may have been previously deported.

Time will tell if those freed comply with the terms of their release. If ICE is right, and the release becomes part of an argument against mass incarceration of “low risk” illegal immigrants, then the budget cuts may have presaged sound policy, some immigration-policy experts suggest.

"This really points out that despite the rhetoric about our targeting hardened criminals, there's actually not that many hardened criminal illegal immigrants to go around," says Allert Brown-Gort, an immigration expert at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. "There are lots and lots of people in the system that are clearly no danger to society, which is why [programs like the release and alternatives-to-detention] make sense."

Critics, meanwhile, maintain that the detainee release is a ruse that has little to do with budgets – and that ICE's lack of details bolsters the argument that politics is afoot.

"Obviously there's nothing in the sequester that says ICE has to release anybody: The idea is absurd," says Steven Camarota, research director at CIS. "They could hold or defer some payments, they could furlough some part of a bloated bureaucracy, but instead they chose to release illegals."


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