As Republican criticism of the move continued to boil, Napolitano told ABC News that career Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials made the decision to release the detainees they deemed to be low-risk as a way to guard against the automatic budget cuts expected to kick in on Friday.

“Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field,” Napolitano said in the interview.

“Do I wish that this all hadn’t been done all of a sudden and so that people weren’t surprised by it? Of course.”