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Government acknowledges more than 2,000 released from jails

Thursday - 3/14/2013, 12:50pm  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is reversing itself -- and it's acknowledging to Congress that it did, in fact, release more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails last month because of budget constraints.

The head of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement told lawmakers that the agency released 2,228 illegal immigrants during a three-week period for what he called "solely budgetary reasons."

That's significantly higher than the "few hundred" immigrants the Obama administration had said were released under the budget-saving process.

John Morton told a House appropriations subcommittee that the decision to release the immigrants wasn't discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

He said, "We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us."

The Associated Press had reported that the administration had released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants since mid-February, and planned to release 3,000 more in March because of looming budget cuts. But Napolitano said days later that the report was "not really accurate." She said "several hundred" releases were related to budget cuts, but not "thousands."


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