The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released approximately 300 illegal immigrants from Arizona detention centers in a move ASU professors and students said could be more political than practical.
ICE released the detainees in response to projected budget cuts of more than 5 percent, which were expected to take place if the sequestration went into action.
The sequester is the name applied to the federal budget cuts that went into effect on Friday.
Gov. Jan Brewer appeared Friday on Fox News and said ICE’s action was a political response to Arizona’s passage of strict immigration policy. Senate Bill 1070 triggered boycotts of the Arizona tourism market and statewide protests when it was passed in 2010.
Political science professor Richard Herrera said Brewer’s outraged response to the detainees’ release likely had political motivation.
“Her response will always be political, just like the president’s,” Herrera said.
Brewer said she met with former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, before the sequester cuts took place and was not told about ICE’s plan to release detainees.
Herrera said the issue of immigration is a federal issue, but it would be unusual for ICE to take action without at least informing the state government.
“We don’t know what was told to (Brewer),” Herrera said. “She’s outraged, because she didn’t want it to happen.”
Herrera said the governor’s actions will likely not affect ICE, but any actions taken by Arizona representatives and senators could have federal impact. It’s possible that ICE released the detainees to make cuts to their budget and not to make a political statement, he said.
“The blunt nature of the sequester cuts makes it across the board,” Herrera said. “It is not necessarily out of the equation that ICE wanted to make cuts. They had a certain amount of money cut from their budget.”
Political science sophomore Jake Bobay, member of Young Americans for Liberty at ASU and College Republicans at ASU, said ICE is using the sequester to make a political statement.
“It’s stupid what ICE is doing. The only reason they’re doing this is to make something out of the sequester cuts,” Bobay said. “They’re trying to scare Republicans.”
Bobay said it is unrealistic to try to detain the millions of illegal immigrants living in the U.S., and having more consumers in an economy creates more jobs.
“When it comes to immigration, I don’t have any problem with reform, but it was probably a rotten move not to talk to Brewer beforehand.” Bobay said. “There needs to be more transparency.”
Carmen Cornejo, executive director of the DREAM Act advocacy group CADENA, said the detainees’ release is the only sequester’s only positive consequence.
“They shouldn’t be there in the first place,” Cornejo said. “It’s a waste of resources that could be used against real crime.”
Cornejo said Brewer has no jurisdiction over federal detention centers and so has no right to protest the federal action. She also said the released detainees are not completely free but have appointments before immigration judges during which they must make a case for their themselves not to be deported.
Despite the release of the detainees, the sequestration will have negative effects on poor communities, she said.
“Sequestration is a sad event in the life of the country,” Cornejo said. “A lot of the programs that offer assistance to under-privileged communities are being cut.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him at Jthrall1