U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have released hundreds of illegal immigrants from federal detention centers this week.
While the detainees will still have to face court proceedings and possible deportation, many will now be monitored outside of prison rather than from behind bars.
ICE officials say it’s a result of federal budget cuts to Homeland Security ahead of the sequester.
“I think it’s puzzling in terms of the timing, but frankly I’m happy about it,” said immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney.
McKinney says their office has already received calls from clients released from prison this week.
“We’ve been arguing for years that these detainees are not violent,” McKinney added. “They are not threats to flee, and frankly shouldn’t be detained at taxpayer expense.”
He continued, “Homeland Security seems to be trying to implement a little common sense here. I would argue they’ve been wasting taxpayer money for years, before we got to this point however.”
Randy Jones with the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office does not believe budget cuts to Homeland security are a good enough explanation.
“Are we going to start opening prison doors in anticipation that there could be overcrowding?” he questioned.
Jones is concerned with whether detainees will show up in court later, if they’re released now.
“It’s the manpower and expenditures you’re going to have if you have to go out and re-arrest people who haven’t appeared in court.”
Jones says from 2008 to 2012, Alamance County processed about 1,600 illegal immigrants. It’s a number he says is relatively low.
Guilford County reports they processed 244 illegal immigrants at the county jail in the last two years. That number does not include people who bonded out with a magistrate before going to jail.