ICE Considers Releasing Thousands of Detainees Due To Projected Budget Shortfall

( — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is considering plans to release thousands of illegal immigrants and reduce its capacity to detain them now that the Senate border deal fell through, the Washington Post reported.

The supplemental foreign aid package that included funding for border security was blocked by Senate Republicans last week. The measure would have included $6 billion in funding for ICE operations, which would have cleared the agency’s $700 million budget shortfall.

With the measure blocked, ICE officials began circulating an internal memo proposing to release thousands of detainees and reduce detention levels from 38,000 beds to only 22,000.

The proposed cuts in detention present a problem for the Biden administration, particularly heading into spring, when illegal border crossings traditionally spike. Immigration is already President Biden’s worst-polled issue, something Republican lawmakers drew more attention to by impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

While Homeland could try to cover ICE’s budget shortfall by redirecting funds from the US Coast Guard, the TSA, or other agencies within DHS, such moves are contentious.

According to ICE officials, its current $700 million shortfall is the largest projected deficit in recent years.

While deportations would be part of the plan to reduce detention levels, most of the cost savings would come from the mass release of illegals into the United States, anonymous officials told the Washington Post.

The reduction in detention capacity would likely mean that thousands of deportation-eligible illegals would be released from custody along the border, further undermining the administration’s strategy of deterring migrants who don’t qualify for asylum from crossing the border.

The record number of illegal border crossings in late 2023 is responsible for the budget shortfall, as DHS agencies were forced to burn through their FY2024 budgets more quickly than anticipated.

John Sandweg, the former acting director of ICE under Obama, told the Washington Post that many House Republicans who voted to impeach Secretary Mayorkas previously attacked him for releasing illegals who had been detained. He said that currently, ICE does not have the capacity to detain illegal migrants, noting that its resources cannot meet the demands.

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