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Detainees released: Could that hurt immigration reform? (+video)

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According to the Department of Homeland Security, the release came as ICE prepared for the sequester, which is set to kick in Friday and which mandates automatic cuts from nearly all corners of the federal bureaucracy, including ICE's $2.05 billion budget. In announcing the release, ICE insisted that the government is not dropping these deportation cases.

"The agency released these low-risk, noncriminal detainees under a less expensive form of monitoring to ensure detention levels stayed within ICE's overall budget," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday, insisting that the White House was not involved in the decision.

On Monday, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, a member of the Obama Cabinet, offered: "I'm supposed to have 34,000 [beds for detainees]. How do I pay for those? We want to maintain [some] 22,000 ... Border Patrol agents. I've got to be able to pay their salaries."

Currently, 30,000 immigration scofflaws are housed in 250 detention facilities nationwide.

Pro-immigrant activists hailed ICE’s move, calling it a common-sense approach that will save the government a lot of money. They also cited research suggesting that those enrolled in alternative-to-detention programs, which include GPS anklets, come to their final immigration hearings 96 percent of the time.

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