Budget Sequester Causes Release of Immigrant Detainees

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

The Hudson and Bergen County jails appear to have already felt the impact of the budget sequester. A total of about 50 immigrant detainees have been released from both facilities. Federal immigration officials describe those released in New Jersey and at facilities across the country as non-criminal or low risk offenders. But Republican Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz questioned who made this decision and why.

“Apparently according to the administration that wasn’t a directive from the administration so I am not sure who decided this would be a smart idea,” said Munoz. “Was this done because of money or because they want to scare the American people?”

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Immigrant rights groups in New Jersey have for years criticized the government’s holding of more than 2,000 immigrant detainees in New Jersey facilities. Sequestration may have opened the door to other less expensive options to monitor them as they wait for deportation hearings.

“When they use alternatives to detention, 96 percent of people are showing up for their final hearing,” said Alexander Shalom, Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “So why not use the alternatives so rather than $165 per day are as little as 30 cents per day? They provide the same public safety and they keep families together.”

Anti-illegal immigration groups questioned whether the release of the immigrant detainees was a political move rather than a cost saving tactic.