Yet the lack of detailed information from ICE about its detainee policy has only added fuel to the questions and criticisms surrounding the detainee release.
Here it what is known so far about the release – from the terminology ICE uses for illegal immigrants to a glimpse into the kinds of people ICE has released.
The detainee controversy comes after other moves by the Obama administration. Since early in the Obama presidency, ICE has used greater discretion in deciding whom to target for deportation, focusing on those deemed higher risks to public safety. And last year, the administration set up a program that allows young illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children to be eligible for work permits.
The new ICE move comes as Republicans weigh how far to go on agreeing to a "path to citizenship" as part of a looming immigration reform package. Both Democrats and Republicans, in fact, have used the detainee release for political posturing in the larger immigration debate.
Critics say the release shows that the Obama administration is not willing to enforce the existing laws that target undocumented immigrants – which for the critics could be an immigration-reform deal breaker. Others counterargue that the administration's actions actually show it's serious. Not only has the White House beefed up border security, they say, but President Obama has also deported more illegal immigrants per year than has any other president.