WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press has learned that the Homeland Security Department official in charge of the agency’s immigration enforcement and removal operations has resigned after hundreds of illegal immigrants were released from jails because of government spending cuts.
In an email obtained Wednesday by the AP, Gary Mead told coworkers that he was leaving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the end of April. Mead is the head of enforcement and removal operations at ICE.
Mead had told co-workers of his resignation in the email sent Tuesday, hours after U.S. officials had confirmed that a few hundred illegal immigrants facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to budget cuts.
President Barack Obama’s spokesman said Wednesday the White House was never consulted but described the immigrants as “low-risk, non-criminal detainees.”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that this week, the Department of Homeland Security started releasing undocumented immigrants being held in immigration jails across the country. The release came just days before mandatory budget cuts go into effect across the government.
USCIS authorities said ICE has looked into several hundred cases of immigrants being held in jails, and placed them in what they call as appropriate and more cost-effective forms of supervised release.
The agency said they prioritize the detention of serious criminal offenders.
The budget cuts will also impact the department of homeland security’s core operations, including border security and airport screening operations.
It will also affect the department’s ability to keep 34 thousand immigration jail beds, mandated by congress.
But immigration authorities stressed that released undocumented immigrants will still face deportation proceedings.