Saying that Texans deserve to know more about the unauthorized immigrants who were released in the state this month through a federal decision tied to sequestration, Sen. John Cornyn on Thursday demanded a hearing into the government’s actions.
In a letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Subcommittee, Cornyn said that Texans have the right to know more about who was released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“[A]t least 700 of these detainees were directly released into Texas. We also know that at least 30 percent of these released detainees had criminal records — potentially including aggravated assault, financial crimes, theft, larceny, drug offenses, drunk-driving, and domestic violence,” wrote Cornyn, the ranking GOP member on the subcommittee. “Though some have suggested that these released criminals were not dangerous offenders, the victims of assault, drug crimes, theft, drunk driving, and domestic violence would strongly disagree.”
ICE cited the release of unauthorized immigrants across the country as a cost-cutting measure because of the budget slashing as a result of sequestration. The agency said it had only released unauthorized immigrants who were deemed low-risk. In his letter, Cornyn says more than 2,200 immigrants have been released nationwide.
“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 March 4.
While critics call the move a federally sponsored security breach, advocates have lauded the move as timely and compassionate. Detention Watch Network, a coalition of advocacy groups focused on reforming the country’s immigration detention system, wrote to leaders in Washington that release of noncriminals and other low-level offenders was a step a positive first step.
“ICE’s decision to reconsider when detention is necessary and to start releasing people from detention when there is no need to detain, is a step in the right direction on many levels,” the coalition wrote. “First and foremost, it means fewer people have to endure the indignities of imprisonment. Substandard medical care, physical, verbal and sexual abuse, lack of outdoor recreation, lack of access to legal services, and limited contact with family or the outside world, are just some of the hardships that pervade the experience of being detained.”