By Alfonso Chardy
José López was at the Krome detention center awaiting possible deportation to his native Nicaragua when, on Feb. 26, immigration officials suddenly released him.
Overjoyed, López went home that day to rejoin his family in Miami for the first time since he was first arrested several months ago and deportation proceedings were initiated.
López was one of the 2,228 immigrant detainees recently released nationwide by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who cited the controversial budgetary sequester.
Among those were 225 foreign nationals freed within the jurisdiction of the ICE Miami deportation unit, which includes Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias.
A federal official familiar with the issue said that 76 of the 225 had criminal convictions, including two who were considered aggravated felons.
While not in detention any longer, these foreign nationals remain under supervised release.
The detainees were released between Feb. 9 and March 1, federal officials in Miami said.
Originally, ICE officials said only a few hundred detained immigrants had been released nationwide. But on March 14, in testimony before a congressional committee in Washington, ICE chief John Morton revealed that the total was higher than had previously been acknowledged.
Morton said the freed detainees included not only undocumented immigrants with no criminal records, but also people convicted of theft, financial crimes and drunk driving.
“In some cases, multiple DUIs,” Morton told a House appropriations subcommittee.