As the clock ticks toward Friday's sequester deadline, we get what the AP calls the first tangible sign of those automatic budget cuts: The feds have released hundreds of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation hearings at detention centers around the country, reports the New York Times. A spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office tied the move directly to the looming cuts: “ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding."
Technically, the detainees remain under court supervision, but if history holds, most will never show up for their next court date, reports the Washington Post. Republicans immediately called it a political stunt. “It’s abhorrent that President Obama is releasing criminals into our communities to promote his political agenda on sequestration,” said Virginia Rep. Robert Goodlatte in a statement getting wide circulation. Earlier, Obama again urged congressional Republicans to compromise before Friday, calling the cuts "a self-inflicted wound that doesn’t have to happen.” (John Boehner, meanwhile, had some colorful advice to the Senate on the sequester.)