The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 27, 2013

As sequester looms, low-risk undocumented immigrants freed

By Cynthia Boyd


A young Honduran immigrant — in Minnesota illegally but seeking asylum in the United States — couldn’t believe her good fortune Tuesday afternoon when she was released from jail in Sherburne County after 16 months detention.

Stepping outside, she marveled at the snow and worried about sunburn.

In an under-the radar-move to prepare for federal budget cuts scheduled to kick in Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are releasing several hundred people from immigrant detention facilities around the country this week. It’s not clear how many will be released in Minnesota.

“They told her, ‘It’s very expensive to hold you here,’’’ explained the Honduran woman’s attorney, Sarah Brenes of The Advocates for Human Rights, translating her clients’ words from Spanish to English. The woman talked only if we did not use her name.

The releases were unexpected.

Hearing unsubstantiated reports people were being released from detention, John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota in St. Paul, messaged some 300 immigration attorneys in Minnesota and the region Tuesday morning asking his colleagues what they knew. Several answered they’d seen their clients released.