The Homeland Security Department released from its jails more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation in recent weeks due to looming budget cuts and planned to release 3,000 more during March, the Associated Press has learned. The newly disclosed figures, cited in internal budget documents, are significantly higher than the "few hundred" illegal immigrants the Obama administration acknowledged this week had been released under the budget-savings process. The states where immigrants were released include Arizona, California, Georgia, and Texas.
The government documents show that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement field offices reported more than 2,000 immigrants released before intense criticism this week led to a temporary shutdown of the plan. The White House has said it was not consulted about the releases, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has acknowledged they occurred in a manner she regrets. The immigrants who were released still eventually face deportation and are required to appear for upcoming court hearings. But they are no longer confined in immigration jails, where advocacy experts say they cost about $164 per day per person. (Read more Department of Homeland Security stories.)