South Carolina’s 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy says he is concerned about the recent release of over 2,000 detainees, including four “level-one” aggravated felons, in a move to cut costs with the federal budget cuts knows as sequestration looming.
As chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, Gowdy contends that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could have asked permission to move money from less vital services in order to make sure so-called “level-one” felons remain incarcerated. Gowdy hammered the point home to ICE Director John Morton during a hearing Tuesday.
“Now this notion that you don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul, you could have easily done that,” he told Morton, “You could have found $600 (a day) to keep these level-one violators from being released and don’t act like you could not have.”
“I don’t want Peter or Paul to rob one of our fellow citizens because you guessed wrong on who to release.”
Gowdy was referring to the cost of housing four convicted felons per day. Those four level-one detainees were among 2,228 overall released by ICE shortly before sequestration would have taken effect. Morton said the agency was actually detaining more inmates than Congress had mandated beds, including some that were not required to be detained under the law.
Gowdy contends that ICE was funded at the level to maintain 34,000 beds and that an additional $240 million was available, which he says could have been used to detain the aggravated felons and repeated offenders that were released.
At the hearing, Gowdy stated that, from his vantage point, the release was based on a political determination of the Obama Administration and not a monetary determination. “It appears to me that the release of detainees was part of a sequester campaign that included a fictional firing of teachers, the closing of the White House for student tours, the displacement of meat inspectors, and now we are going to release aggravated felons on to the street.”
In a written statement, Gowdy said he believed some of those released because of what he termed a “public relations stunt gone wrong” are going to reoffend. Gowdy said he wants to find out who ultimately made the decision to release these detainees and why.