Fox Hypes Bogus Theory That Immigrant Detainee Release Is “Payback” For Arizona

Fox News pushed Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's theory that the supervised release of some undocumented immigrants is “payback” for her state's immigration enforcement efforts. But the release was nationwide, not just in Arizona, and was in response to impending budget cuts from sequestration.

Ahead Of Scheduled Budget Cuts, Immigration Officials Placed Several Hundred Detainees On “Supervised Release”

NY Times: Immigration Officials Say Release Was “A Response To The Possibility Of Automatic Governmentwide (sic) Budget Cuts.” In an article on the release, The New York Times reported: “Officials said the releases, which began last week and continued on Tuesday, were a response to the possibility of automatic governmentwide (sic) budget cuts, known as sequestration, which are scheduled to take effect on Friday.” The paper added:

“As fiscal uncertainty remains over the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, ICE has reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget,” the agency's spokeswoman, Gillian M. Christensen, said in a statement. The agency's budget for custody operations in the current fiscal year is $2.05 billion, officials said, and as of Saturday, ICE was holding 30,773 people in its detention system. [The New York Times, 2/26/13]

Fox Indulges, Repeats AZ Governor's Theory That Release Was Political “Payback”

Fox Hosts Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer To Claim Supervised Release “Could Be Payback” For Wanting Borders Secured. America's Newsroom hosted Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) to claim that the release “could be payback” and punishment to Arizona “because we want our borders secured and we're strong about it.” Asked by co-host Bill Hemmer whether she thinks “Washington is picking on you,” Brewer said, “I think it's pretty obvious that they're doing everything in their power. I mean, this is just another notch in their belt.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/1/13]

Geraldo Rivera: Release Is An “Example Of The White House Strong Arm Tactics;” White House “Declared War On People Who Are Opposing The President.” Fox host Geraldo Rivera cited the release as an “example of the White House strong arm tactics.” He suggested that the release targeted Arizona because Governor Jan Brewer “famously scolded the president with her finger.” Rivera added that the White House “declared war on the people who are opposing the president.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/1/13]

Gretchen Carlson: “It's Not Surprising That It Would Be Arizona,” Because Obama's “Not Best Friends With” Brewer. Discussing the release, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade repeated a question he claimed came from a sheriff that “if this place was located near where the White House is or near Chicago, would [Obama] have done that to the people where he lives or where he used to live?” Co-host Gretchen Carlson responded, “That's my point, but keep in mind he's not best friends with Governor Jan Brewer. They've gone head to head, literally, over the immigration situation in that state so it's not surprising that it would be Arizona. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/28/13]

But The Supervised Release Was Nationwide -- Not Just In Arizona

NY Times: “Detainees From Detention Centers Around The Country” Have Been Released. The New York Times cited reports of detainee releases in Texas, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and New York, in addition to Arizona. According to the Times: “Federal immigration officials have released hundreds of detainees from detention centers around the country in recent days in a highly unusual effort to save money as automatic budget cuts loom in Washington, officials said Tuesday.” [The New York Times, 2/26/13]

The Star-Ledger: “Immigration Activists Said They Believed About 50 Detainees” Were Released From New Jersey County Jails. The Star-Ledger reported that “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had released several hundred immigrant detainees from jails around the country to trim costs ahead of Friday's cuts.” While the spokesman for the ICE field office in Newark, New Jersey declined to comment for the story, “immigrant advocates said they believed about 50 detainees were freed from the Hudson and Bergen county jails, two of seven sites that collectively house 2,300 immigrants.” [The Star-Ledger, 2/28/13]

Houston Chronicle: Detainees Were “Released From Federal Detention Facilities In The Houston Region.” The Houston Chronicle reported that detainees were “released from federal detention facilities in the Houston region and more are expected in anticipation of looming federal budget cuts on Friday, according to immigration officials and local attorneys.” [Houston Chronicle, 2/27/13]

Supervised Release Sustains Deportation Proceedings And Has A Record Of Success

LA Times: ICE Policy Keeps Released Undocumented Immigrants In Removal Proceedings. The Los Angeles Times reported that the released immigrants' cases “continue to proceed in court.” The story included the following statement from ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christiansen: “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.” [Los Angeles Times2/26/13]

NY Times: Policy Requires “Strict Reporting Schedule” And Possible Electric Monitoring Bracelets. The New York Times reported that the move toward “supervised release” does nothing to halt deportation proceedings and comes with reporting requirements:

Under supervised release, defendants in immigration cases have to adhere to a strict reporting schedule that might include attending appointments at a regional immigration office as well as wearing electronic monitoring bracelets, officials said. [The New York Times, 2/26/13]

Human Rights First: Vast Majority Of Immigrants In Alternative-To-Detention Programs Report To Court Hearings. The New York Times reported that, according to human rights advocacy group Human Rights First, statistics show that more than 9 in 10 immigrants in alternative-to-detention programs show up to deportation hearings:

Human Rights First, another advocacy group in New York, which has been pressing for reform of the immigration detention system, said that 96 percent of immigrants enrolled in ICE's alternatives-to-detention program attended their final hearing in 2011. That figure was up from the year before, in which 93 percent attended their final court hearings, said the group, citing statistics provided by B.I., a private contractor that provides monitoring and supervision services to ICE. [The New York Times2/26/13]

The Program Was Authorized By Congress In 2002

DHS: In FY 2002, Congress Authorized Allowing Certain Undocumented Immigrants To Be Released Into A Supervised Program As They Await Deportation. According to a 2011 Department of Homeland Security report, supervised releases have been a regular part of Department of Homeland Security enforcement procedures since at least 2002:

In FY 2002, Congress authorized the use of alternatives to detention programs as a mechanism to facilitate alien compliance with attendance at immigration court hearings and departure from the United States. The program allows certain aliens whose detention is not statutorily mandated to remain in their communities while their removal process is pending. ERO's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program meets this critical need for community supervision of the non-detained alien population using technology and case specialists to actively engage aliens until a final determination of their immigration status can be made.

The ATD program releases detainees (called “participants” in the ATD program) who are not required by statute to be detained. Prior to enrollment in the program, ERO officers vet the individuals to ensure that they are eligible to participate. Those who are eligible to participate choose whether or not they want to participate in the program. Those who choose to participate sign the rules of participation indicating their willingness to comply and those who do not want to participate are housed in a detention facility. [Department of Homeland Security, 5/20/11]