Last week's release of illegal immigrants into Arizona is political "payback'' by the Obama administration, Gov. Jan Brewer charged Monday.
The governor acknowledged the stated purpose of the release was to deal with the automatic spending cuts forced by the sequestration process. And officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement said these individuals are low-level offenders who will have to check in regularly and remain subject to deportation.
But Brewer said she sees a different agenda in the release of about 300 inmates in Arizona and perhaps 2,000 nationwide.
"I think it's pretty clear that they're not looking upon Arizona favorably because of the action we've taken here and the positions that I've taken,'' she said.
Part of that, Brewer said, was her 2010 decision to sign SB 1070 to have the state adopt its own laws to deal with illegal immigration. That drew a legal challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice.
"In my memory I'm the first governor that the federal government has ever sued,'' Brewer said.
Brewer also has been outspoken in her opposition to the administration's policies on immigration.
And then there was the famous finger-wagging incident last year on the tarmac of Sky Harbor International Airport when Brewer greeted the president -- and had her photo snapped with the two of them nearly toe to toe, with Brewer pointing her finger at the president's face.
Brewer said Monday the administration has been targeting Arizona.
Last year, she noted, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded the agreements it had with some local law enforcement agencies allow them to enforce federal immigration laws.
"And then they're releasing what we believe to be are criminal illegal aliens out of jail, into our society, not knowing who they are or what they are,'' Brewer said.
Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Even if there were a legitimate budget reason for the release, Brewer said the way it was done only underscores her contention that it was designed, at least in part, to punish Arizona.
The governor said she was in Washington, at an event with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the night before the release.
"And she didn't warn me or tell me anything,'' Brewer said of her predecessor.
On Friday, two of Brewer's agency chiefs sent a letter to John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking an exact number of people who have been released, where they had been housed and what are the criminal backgrounds and threat levels of those let out.
Robert Halliday, director of the state Department of Public Safety, and Gilbert Orrantia, head of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, also wants to know whether similar releases are planned in the future. And they are asking whether it is protocol to contact state and local law enforcement agencies ahead of such releases and, if not, why.
"Please understand that releasing criminal aliens onto the streets of Arizona cities and towns, especially without any notice, undermines public safety and undermines the public's faith in government's ability to carry out its most fundamental function,'' the pair wrote. Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that as of late Monday there was no response.