WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration contradicted itself yesterday, acknowledging to Congress that it had, in fact, released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from immigration jails because of budget constraints during three weeks in February. Four deemed especially dangerous have been placed back in jail.

The administration had claimed only a "few hundred immigrants" were released for budgetary reasons, challenging as inaccurate an Associated Press report that more than 2,000 immigrants had been released and that 3,000 more would be released this month.

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However, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, testified Thursday that his agency released 2,228 illegal immigrants for what he called "solely budgetary reasons." Morton spoke during a House appropriations subcommittee hearing.

Morton told lawmakers the decision to release the immigrants was not discussed in advance with political appointees, including those in the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "We were trying to live within the budget that Congress had provided us," Morton told lawmakers.