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

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More broadly, however, 59 percent of all alleged immigration lawbreakers who are not detained by ICE fail to show up for their immigration court dates, critics say. Moreover, some 600,000 illegal immigrants have never answered deportation letters sent to them by ICE, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a Washington think tank that advocates stronger borders and tougher immigration enforcement.

"Illegal immigrants are by definition flight risks," says Steven Camarota, research director at the center.

So far, polls suggest that Republicans are on a "death march" by opposing moves like eliminating tax loopholes and some deductions, Mr. Brown-Gort says. Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) complained that Obama is "trying to scare the American people" by ginning up potential effects from the sequester, which really puts the brakes on spending growth, in part by reducing Treasury outlays for discretionary spending.

Beyond the sequester showdown are the recent moves toward immigration reform, with both Obama and a bipartisan group of senators, notably including Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, outlining proposals that move illegal immigrants toward legalization. In that light, the Obama administration could be particularly vulnerable to criticism over releasing lawbreakers, especially if any of those detainees cause mayhem that makes the news.

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