The Obama administration, forced to cut spending under the congressional sequester, ordered immigration officials to slash jailed illegals by over 5,000, including some accused of "terroristic threats," drunk driving, drug and gun possession and sexual assault, according to newly revealed emails.

Hundreds of emails obtained by the Immigration Reform Law Institute under a Freedom of Information Act demand showed urgent demands from Washington to Immigration and Customs Enforcement outposts around the country to release illegals after the 2013 sequester went into effect.

The administration tried to prioritize non-criminal illegals for release, but pressure to move fast prompted the release of criminals. Several illegal immigrants detained for terrorist activities were cited in release emails obtained by the Institute.

Its investigation, on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, portrayed the Department of Homeland Security's immigration agencies scrambling to cut the number of jail beds it was filling in a cost-cutting move to slash some $84 million taken in the budget sequester.

"These emails make it crystal clear that the administration was more concerned with the political optics of its immigration enforcement efforts than with its duty to keep Americans safe from criminal and illegal aliens," said FAIR spokesman Dave Ray. "Unfortunately, some American families paid the ultimate price – the loss of a loved one – for this political theater."

President Obama's immigration policies have been plagued with violence and even murder by illegal aliens released from jails instead of being deported.

News reports at the time put the number of those released at some 2,000, but the new emails show that officials demanded a cut over just one month of 5,432 for a cap of daily illegals held of 25,748. Administration officials said at the time that the reduction was simply part of the daily "ebb and flow," not an order issued by top ICE officials headlined "Short Turnaround."

In the heavily redacted emails, one official called the forced reduction "BS," and when concerns were raised about releasing violent criminal aliens, a top official assured, "Stay calm. You have not done anything wrong." In another, an immigration official forwarding release orders pleaded, "Don't shoot the messenger." And in a fourth, a top official wrote, "We must decrease our population by COB today. Let's do this now."

In the emails, officials referred to the immigrants as "bodies."

And in one, officials asked what should be done if a load of smuggled immigrants were captured during the cutback. In a Feb. 25, 2013 memo, the director of the Colorado ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations office said arrests can be made, but none will be detained.

"Yes, you would be correct that after reading this, you are wondering about smuggling loads. [Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol] are free to arrest and process anyone they desire; however, we are the funded entity for detention space and only cases that meet the requirements above will be housed. That means an illegal in a smuggling load will NOT be housed," said the memo.

FAIR and the Immigration Reform Law Institute provided the emails to Secrets in five large batches. Below are some of the searchable highlights pointed out by FAIR's legal arm:

— One officer calls the changes, "BS." (Part 1, P. 142).

— ICE officials downplayed the cuts as part of the "ebb and flow" of numbers. (Part 2, P. 131.)

— In one email, staff receive a spreadsheet showing "where [they] need to be… and where [they] will need to be by the end of [the month]." (Part 4, P. 313). Another email shows top ICE official Gary Mead telling his subordinates to "[p]lease take the time to get the numbers correct", explaining further that "we may have had good reasons to have released criminal aliens including level 1 and 2." He ends by assuring them, "Stay calm. You have not done anything wrong." (Part 4, P. 174).

— Washington officials put substantial pressure on ICE agents to get to the "correct numbers" with little consideration being made for public safety. As field director tells staff, "I know this sounds like Groundhog's day, but we have to keep looking deeper into the pool for releases." (Part 5, P. 347). "[I]f we are getting close [to the cap on detainee figures]," officers are told, "then we will release in reverse order of their listing below." (Part 5, P. 327).

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at