GOP lawmaker likens Obama to Castro

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) on Thursday compared the Obama administration’s release of hundreds of illegal immigrants from detention centers to the mass exodus of Cuban refugees condoned by Fidel Castro in 1980.

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Barletta — who has a record of cracking down on illegal immigrants as the former mayor of Hazelton, Pa. — criticized the administration's move to release the illegal immigrants into a supervised monitoring program as “inexcusable.”

"This is a federal government that has grown so big and so expensive that they would rather let criminals go than federal employees,” Barletta said in an interview on Fox News. 

“This reminds me of when Fidel Castro released the criminal prisoners in the Mariel boatlift in 1980. To go to that level, that this is the only cost savings we could do, is to put Americans at risk by any criminal alien, regardless of what the crime was, is inexcusable.”

The White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have said they did not know beforehand about Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) move earlier this week, which targeted only illegal immigrants deemed to be a low public-safety risk. 

ICE has said the mass release was in preparation for the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts, widely expected to go into effect on March 1, which would limit the number of detainees ICE could pay to house. The former detainees were released into a less costly monitoring program, according to an agency official. 

Barletta's comments were referencing the 1980 event in which more than 100,000 Cubans emigrated to the United States to flee Castro's regime. Some of the immigrants had been freed from prisons and mental health centers by Castro ahead of the mass exodus.  

Republicans have been hammering the administration for more details all week about how many illegal immigrants were placed in the supervised release program, the specifics of their criminal records and which agency officials made the call to release them.