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Carney: WH Wasn't Involved In ICE's Decision To Release Detainees

QUESTION: I was curious, earlier this week, in advance of these cuts, ICE announced that it released a number of detainees across the country to get ready for sequestration. Was the White House aware of this release? And are you confident that not one of these detainees is a threat to his or her community?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was a decision made by career officials at ICE, without any input from the White House, as a result of fiscal uncertainty over the continuing resolution, as well as possible sequester. As ICE made clear yesterday, the agency released these low-risk, non-criminal detainees under a less expensive form of monitoring to ensure detention levels stayed within ICE’s overall budget. All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety. This step affected a few hundred detainees, as you know, out of the over 30,000 currently in ICE detention.

I think it’s worth noting what Secretary Napolitano said the other day, which is that we have made enormous progress in securing our border. We have doubled the presence of border security agents along the Southwest border since 2004, and many, including Republicans in Congress, have noted the progress that has been made.

Much as Secretary Duncan discussed here, instead of talking about taking a step backward in our efforts to improve education in America -- since we have made progress in those efforts -- we should be talking about moving forward. And when it comes to border security, I think Secretary Napolitano made clear that we should be building on the progress we've made, but unfortunately, we're talking about sequestration and --

Q But she didn’t mention that this might be necessary as part of sequestration.

MR. CARNEY: I think she talked very explicitly about the direct --

Q About releasing detainees?

MR. CARNEY: Well, about the direct impact that the budget conflicts that we have here with Congress and sequestration, as well as the upcoming continuing resolution expiration, that they have on her budget and other budgets, and the decisions that have to be made because of that. But I would refer you for details on these specific decisions to ICE, because this was a decision made by career officials at ICE.

Q Right, and you said without --

MR. CARNEY: Without any input from the White House.

Q From the White House.

MR. CARNEY: That's correct.

Q But let me just ask you -- as you mentioned and ICE mentioned, it says in their statement that many of these detainees are in the process of removal proceedings. How are you supposed to bring them back in if they’ve been released?

MR. CARNEY: Well, no, I think you're misunderstanding what ICE has said. They continue in the program under a less expensive form of monitoring to ensure that detention levels, actual detentions, stay within ICE’s overall budget. But they remain in the process for deportation.

Q But it’s possible that some of them might not be brought back in?

MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I would refer you to ICE. I don't think this is a conversation that I can help you with in the specifics.

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