When Gary Mead sent notice of his planned resignation to colleagues, it's likely he didn't expect that the move would almost instantly become a furious topic in the boiling debate over the sequester. But this is the state of Washington's fever. Twitter quickly decided that Mead, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security, first was and then wasn't resigning because of yesterday's announced release of immigrant detainees. In doing so, he became a fistfight in a skirmish in a battle that's part of America's long, tedious, partisan war.
Until Tuesday, Mead was the mid-level executive associate director for enforcement and removal operations at ICE, and admittedly he picked a bad time to resign. For more than a week, the administration has been warning of the various horrible effects of massive budget cuts slated for the end of the week. When the Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday afternoon that it had released several hundred non-violent detainees to save the costs of housing them (though they will still be monitored), a move that might normally have been a bit contentious quickly became top-tier political fodder. The White House denied involvement in the decision; Speaker of the House John Boehner told CBS Evening News that it was "outrageous" that the agency couldn't find cost savings short of "letting criminals go free."
This afternoon, the AP threw the following fuel onto the fire.
BREAKING: Homeland Security official resigns after release of illegal immigrants blamed on budget cuts— The Associated Press (@AP) February 27, 2013
It's carefully worded: "resigns after release." A correlation, but not necessarily a causation. Nonetheless:
anyone else hear a camel's back break? RT @ap: Homeland Security official resigns after release of illegal immigrants blamed on budget cuts— Brandon Kiser (@Kiser) February 27, 2013
AP: "Homeland Security official resigns after release of illegal immigrants blamed on budget cuts." <-- what epic fail looks like.— Ken Gardner (@kesgardner) February 27, 2013
The buck stops there. RT @ap: BREAKING: Homeland Security official resigns after release of illegal immigrants blamed on budget cuts— Matthew Cooper (@mattizcoop) February 27, 2013
Within half an hour, the AP followed up with an identification of Mead, Immigration's associate director of Enforcement and Removal Operations, as the person who resigned. Effective April. With no clear link to yesterday's announcement.
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.
Mead's name spread across Twitter within moments.
here's the white guy Obama fired over his fake sequester release of illegal aliens!!! --> 1.usa.gov/Xbu4IK— El SOOPer!! (@SooperMexican) February 27, 2013
Obama's latest scapegoat: ice.gov/about/leadersh…Don't worry. They just get a new title in some other dept. Just like F&F!— Jo Anne moretti (@JoAnneMoretti) February 27, 2013
And then, round three:
DHS denies AP report on Gary Mead's resignation over immigration detainees post coming— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 27, 2013
This is all in the space of an hour.
Reading a little further in the four-paragraph AP article makes clear that Mead's resignation wasn't linked to any outcry. He sent it yesterday afternoon -- after DHS' announcement but before Obama responded and before Boehner was on CBS.
Lesson learned. Nearly anything can work politicians and observers into a lather at this point, including, it seems, an email sent from a bureaucrat to his colleagues. Let the afternoon of Wednesday, February 27, be remembered as that of Gary Mead -- and, perhaps, as high tide for sequester-driven madness.