Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said those released have not committed serious crimes and are not considered dangerous to public safety, The New York Times reported. She said the releases have been under way for several days.
The automatic across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration are scheduled to kick in Friday if President Obama and House Republicans fail to reach a fiscal compromise. Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, accused the administration of playing politics with public safety.
"It's abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration," Goodlatte said. "By releasing criminal immigrants onto the streets, the administration is needlessly endangering American lives."
Christensen said ICE has "to make the best use of limited detention resources." While officials would not say how candidates for release have been selected, they said those released were "low-priority detainees," which includes juveniles, the elderly and long-term residents of the United States.