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INS ordered to release immigrants

Attorney General John Ashcroft on Thursday reluctantly ordered the Immigration and Naturalization Service to begin releasing 3,400 foreign nationals who have completed sentences for criminal convictions in the United States but whose home countries won't take them back.

The decision comes three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that the INS cannot detain the criminals indefinitely, even if there is no country to which they can be deported. INS policy allowed holding criminal immigrants as long as necessary to protect public safety.

The detainees, most of whom are legal immigrants who never applied for citizenship, are being held at INS-run detention centers or local jails around the country that have contracts with the INS. Some may be released as early as next week, officials said.

Intern search criticized as hurting other inquiries

The painstaking search for missing former federal intern Chandra Levy is hurting murder investigations in Washington, leaders of the police union said Thursday.

Gregory I. Green, the union's secretary, said officers are hearing complaints from residents in the neighborhoods they patrol about the search for Levy, who has not been seen for 80 days.

On Thursday, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said it would defer an inquiry of Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., requested by Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga. Barr alleged last week that Condit, who reportedly had an affair with Levy, obstructed the police investigation of Levy's disappearance.

The union's criticism of police leadership came as the FBI moved the Levy case to its Major Crime Squad, which handles long-term investigations.

Committee sends judge nominees to full Senate

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the first of President Bush's judicial picks, sending three nominations to the full Senate.

Roger Gregory, Richard Cebull and Sam Haddon won approval by a 19-0 vote and without debate. It was the committee's first voting session since the Democratic takeover of the Senate and came a little more than a week after their confirmation hearing.

Gregory was among Bush's first nominees. He is the first black judge to serve on the 4th Circuit, which covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

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