Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton admitted that he could have avoided releasing 2,228 illegal immigrant detainees by asking Congress for flexibility under sequestration, but he never made an effort to do so.
“We can seek reprogramming requirements, that is absolutely true, Mr. Chairman, and we did not in this instance,” Morton told House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., during a hearing this afternoon. “I did not want to rob Peter to pay Paul. My view is that we need to maintain the operations of the agency, I did not want to furlough people, and my view is that I need to make rational decisions across the [agency accounts].”
“Reprogramming requirements” refers to a request to “reprogram” how an agency spends the money allotted to it by Congress. Morton’s answer not only makes clear that he could have avoided releasing those detainees — 70 percent of which had no criminal record, he emphasized — but also supports the Republican argument that President Obama already has the flexibility to handle the sequester. In fact, Republicans have invited the Obama administration to “reprogram” the sequester.