Congress: Reduce Wasteful Spending on Immigration Detention
March 21, 2012
Detention Watch Network Urges Congress to Follow President’s Lead and Reduce Wasteful Spending on the Incarceration of Immigrants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Detention Watch Network is encouraged by the Obama Administration’s request for a reduction in immigration detention beds in the recent FY 2013 budget proposal. The President’s budget requests funding for 32,800 daily detention beds, which is a 1,200 bed reduction from FY 2012. In addition, the budget requests a $39 million increase in funding for Alternatives to Detention programs.
Also of note, the President’s request states that “the budget includes flexibility to transfer funding between jail detention and other forms of detention such as electronic monitoring and intensive supervision, commensurate with the level of risk a detainee presents.”
“This language seems to acknowledge that ICE’s intensive monitoring programs are themselves ‘forms of detention,’” said Andrea Black, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network. “Advocates have long argued that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should not be required to incarcerate any person whom it feels it can supervise through a less restrictive, more cost effective method.”
If Congress allows for flexibility in how ICE uses its detention money, the agency will have the authority to make determinations based on its programmatic needs rather than political dictates. ICE can exercise its discretion to move away from holding immigrants in prisons and jails while they determine their immigration status and prioritize the use of its Alternatives to Detention programs. Individuals who are subject to “mandatory detention” should be eligible for these less expensive and more humane programs if ICE deems it appropriate. Currently, more than 60% of people in detention are mandatorily detained without the right to a bond hearing.
Since 1996, the immigration detention system has grown rapidly, from 70,000 people detained annually to more than 360,000. The U.S. now maintains a sprawling network of detention facilities, comprised of more than 250 federal and private facilities, state prisons and county jails, at an annual cost of $1.7 billion to taxpayers. The expansion of the detention system has been accompanied by increasing levels of abuse, dire living conditions, and over 120 immigrant deaths since 2003. DWN calls upon Congress to follow the White House’s lead and reduce funding for the incarceration of immigrants.
“It may take time to dismantle this mismanaged and inhumane detention infrastructure,” said Black, “but a reduction in funding for detention beds, even a minor one, is a good first step.”
The Detention Watch Network is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform. For more information visit http://detentionwatchnetwork.org/