Sequester forces Obama to release immigrant detainees, GOP sad

In the wake of the GOP-created-and-led sequestration threat, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have released an “unspecified” number of non-criminal and low-risk immigrants detained in facilities around the nation, in an effort to save money as sequester-related budget cuts approach.

Now (southern) Republican lawmakers in Congress are threatening to derail any chance of immigration reform over the move.

While releases of immigrants without serious, or any, criminal histories aren’t uncommon, ICE’s actions have pushed obstructionist Republican lawmakers, already unhappy about bipartisan reform, to accuse the Obama administration of bowing to political pressure and catering to pro-immigrant groups.

“It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration,” said Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. “By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives.”

Never mind the fact that the border is at its most secure in decades. Never mind that border towns have been named some of the safest in the nation. And never mind that President Obama has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants.

Goodlatte most recently made headlines for claiming he’d oppose any reform containing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. As the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte would have the power to amend or even refuse to bring legislation to the floor for a vote. After a backlash in the press, he later changed his stance and claimed to be “open” to legalization, but refused to specify any details.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama (anyone seeing a trend here?) also echoed Goodlatte’s stance, claiming released non-criminal detainees “lessened” the chance of comprehensive immigration reform passing to the President’s desk. Of course, he also neglected to mention that the lessened chances would be a direct result of his party’s stated goal of trying to destroy Obama’s second term.

“It is clear the administration is using the sequester as a convenient excuse to bow to political pressure from the amnesty groups,” Sessions said. “With this new action, the administration has further demonstrated that it has no commitment to enforcing the law and cannot be trusted to deliver on any future promises of enforcement.”

Ask the over 400,000 individuals deported in 2012 alone if they think President Obama enforced the law, Mr. Sessions.

Let’s take a look at some of the “crimes” that got these people detained in the first place:

Werner Arreaga Garcia is among those hoping to be released.

The 29-year-old man from Queens, N.Y., is being detained at the Hudson County jail and called his family upon learning that detainees were suddenly being freed, his wife said.

A Guatemalan native, Arreaga Garcia was detained after being charged with making an illegal U-turn, his wife Nora Munoz said.

He has lived in New York for eight years working as an auto mechanic, said Munoz, who is a U.S. citizen.

An illegal U-turn.

As fiscal conservatives, it’s surprising Republicans would be against moving detainees from federal facilities to other supervised environments in order to save money. In fact, the National Immigration Forum estimated that while it costs anywhere from $122 to $164 a day to hold a detainee at the federal level, lesser forms of detention cost anywhere from just 30 cents to $14 a day.

Republicans were well aware that sequester-induced budget cuts would affect vital federal agencies. Republicans like John Boehner pushed the idea of sequestration, after claiming spending cuts and slashing federal agencies are always a great idea. Apparently just not when a Democrat does it.

Of course, the irony is that the only reason Republicans came around on immigration reform in the first place was because of their devastating losses in the 2012 elections, in part due to the massive (and growing) Latino voting bloc that traditionally votes Democratic to the tune of 70% to 75%.

After losing Latinos, blacks (93%), women (55%), gays (76%), and youth (60%), the Republicans were understandably a tad concerned about their future outside of the deep south and deep southwest.  But for Republicans, bigotry is a more deep-seated instinct than survival.

Good luck with that.


Gabe Ortíz is a San Francisco-based writer. He has contributed to the Mission's bilingual newspaper "El Tecolote," and the political blogs AMERICAblog, AMERICAblog Gay, and Veracity Stew. He's also a Stevie Nicks lover and shameless catlady. Follow him on Twitter: @Tusk81.

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