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Homeland Security official resigns after release of illegal immigrants blamed on budget cuts

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

In this undated photo, immigrants walk to hearings at the Stewart Detention Center in Lupmkin, Ga. Gillian Christensen, an ICE spokeswoman, said ICE has reviewed "several hundred cases" of immigrants being held in jails around the country and released them in the last week.

Jeremy Redmon, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — The Associated Press has learned that the Homeland Security Department official in charge of the agency's immigration enforcement and removal operations has resigned after hundreds of illegal immigrants were released from jails because of government spending cuts.

In an email obtained Wednesday by the AP, Gary Mead told coworkers that he was leaving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the end of April. Mead is the head of enforcement and removal operations at ICE.

Mead had told co-workers of his resignation in the email sent Tuesday, hours after U.S. officials had confirmed that a few hundred illegal immigrants facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to budget cuts.

President Barack Obama's spokesman said Wednesday the White House was never consulted but described the immigrants as "low-risk, non-criminal detainees."

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