Dozens of House Republicans on Monday accused the Department of Homeland Security of using the sequester as an excuse for releasing immigrant detainees, which they said furthers the Obama administration's goal of weakening U.S. immigration laws.
"We are deeply concerned that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using sequestration as a vehicle to further the Administration's disregard for enforcing our immigration laws," they wrote in a letter spearheaded by Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) and signed by 37 House Republicans. "Specifically, we are troubled by recent reports that DHS has released hundreds of illegal immigrants, rather than finding cost savings elsewhere in the agency."
"[I]t is frankly irresponsible that your agency chose to release detained immigrants as its first effort to control spending," the members wrote. "The inability of DHS to prioritize resources for potential cuts suggests this decision was either politically motivated to further the Administration's amnesty goals or, at best, demonstrates agency incompetence."
Under the sequester, DHS needs to find about $3 billion in spending cuts. Napolitano has hinted previously that these cuts could lead to reduced hours for border patrol agents.
Reports surfaced last week that DHS would release up to 5,000 illegal immigrant detainees in order to deal with the sequester. The House GOP letter, however, asked DHS to halt any further releases, and asked DHS to answer a series of questions related to this policy.
For example, it asked DHS to say how many have been released so far, criteria for release, and the name of the DHS official who authorized review of detained immigrants for release.
It also asked what spending cuts were implemented before the detainee release policy was activated, how much was saved, and why it was not enough. And it asked how much money is saved by releasing immigrants, and what steps DHS is taking to track them.
It's unclear whether DHS will reply to the letter. Last month, Hunter wrote to Napolitano asking for her to clarify how the administration can say that all but three miles of border fence has been erected between the U.S. and Mexico. But an aide to Hunter said Napolitano never replied.