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H.R. 2217, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DEUTCH. Mr. Chairman, this amendment would strike the provision in H.R. 2217, which states:

Funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds through September 30, 2014.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has interpreted this provision, which has been in past appropriations bills, to require the maintenance of a daily detention population of 34,000 people. This detention bed mandate ties the hands of ICE and restricts its discretion to make detention decisions even when release could be appropriate. Indeed, this is an unprecedented mandate for law enforcement as no other law enforcement agencies have a quota for the number of people that they must keep in jail.

This detention bed mandate is a drain on ICE's limited resources. On March 19 of this year, I participated in a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing with ICE Director John Morton that addressed this issue. Director Morton explained that ICE had interpreted language in the previous continuing resolution as requiring the agency to keep ``a yearly average daily population of approximately 34,000 individuals.'' Accordingly, ICE has been maintaining an average daily detention population well over 34,000 people with the numbers fluctuating between 35,000 and 37,000 people. Due to this fiscally unsustainable mandate, ICE released more than 2,000 individuals earlier this year to avoid burning through its detention funds.

Detention is extremely costly, and it strains ICE's limited budget in an era of fiscal restraint. Mandating ICE to keep 34,000 detainees in custody each day forces ICE to forgo alternatives to detention that would save taxpayer money. In fact, a single detention bed is approximately $122 per day; and with additional administrative costs, it can rise to $164 a day. Meanwhile, alternatives such as ankle bracelets, parole, telephonic, and in-person reporting, curfews, and home visits can run from 30 cents to $14 per day.

By untying ICE's hands by striking this minimum detention population requirement, we can allow ICE to pursue effective alternatives and make budgetary savings. ICE agents could use these savings when focusing on their many additional responsibilities, such as cracking down on drug smuggling, human trafficking and child pornography--all priorities which are shared by Republicans and Democrats alike.

I would like to thank my friend, Congressman Bill Foster, for his dedication to this issue.

Detention takes an enormous toll on our communities, and mandating ICE detain 34,000 individuals a day does not secure our borders or make us safer. The Deutch-Foster amendment would strike this arbitrary provision from the bill, and I urge its adoption.

Mr. Chairman, I yield to my friend, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Foster).

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Mr. DEUTCH. Mr. Chairman, I have a letter of support for this amendment that is signed by 66 local, national and State groups, which I submit for the Record.

June 5, 2013.
Re H.R. 2217--Support Rep. Deutch's Amendment to Eliminate the Immigration Detention Bed Mandate

Hon. JOHN BOEHNER,
Speaker, House of Representatives,
Washington, DC.
Hon. NANCY PELOSI,
Minority Leader, House of Representatives,
Washington, DC.

DEAR SPEAKER BOEHNER AND MINORITY LEADER PELOSI: As organizations that work to protect and advance the rights of individuals in immigration detention, we write to encourage bipartisan support of Rep. Deutch's amendment (co-sponsored by Rep. Foster) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, H.R. 2217, that would eliminate the immigration detention bed mandate.

Congress has mandated through appropriations that DHS maintain a daily immigration detention level of 34,000 individuals, a micro-managing approach that does not exist in any other law enforcement context. DHS already uses a Risk Assessment Tool to help determine whether an individual presents a risk of flight or a risk to public safety and whether that person should be detained. Yet the bed ``mandate'' precludes the agency from making decisions about detention based on its enforcement priorities, policies, and need. It also makes increased efficiencies, effective alternatives to detention, and other cost-savings efforts for taxpayers impossible--an irresponsible approach for the federal government to take when Washington seeks to reduce federal spending. Alternatives to detention have received bipartisan support for its cost-savings from groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations' Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy, the Heritage Foundation, the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (home to Right on Crime), the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Conference of Chief Justices.

Today, taxpayers pay upward of $2 billion a year to fund immigration detention, approximately $5.5 million each day. Decades ago, criminal justice and correctional experts observed that holding all individuals subject to incarceration in jails or prisons was unsustainable, unnecessary, and a wasteful use of resources. It is common in the criminal justice system to use an array of less costly custody options, such as electronic monitoring and house arrest, to meet pre-trial and post-sentencing needs. The federal sentencing guidelines expressly allow substitution of a prison sentence with alternatives to incarceration. The immigration detention system should follow suit and conform to established best practices.

We urge you to support this important amendment, which will eliminate this arbitrary immigration detention quota and save critical taxpayer dollars. Please feel free to contact Royce Murray with any questions.

Sincerely,

NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Adrian Dominican Sisters.

All of Us or None.

American Civil Liberties Union.

American Friends Service Committee.

American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Americans for Immigrant Justice, formerly Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

America's Voice.

Arab American Institute.

Congregation of St. Joseph.

Detention Watch Network.

Human Rights First.

Immigration Equality Action Fund.

Japanese American Citizens League.

Justice for Immigrants.

Justice Strategies.

League of United Latin American Citizens.

Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

National Center for Transgender Equality.

National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

National Immigrant Justice Center.

National Immigration Forum.

National Immigration Law Center.

Physicians for Human Rights.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania, OH.

Sisters of St. Joseph, TOSF.

Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, O'Fallon, MO.

Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Advocates for Human Rights.

The Center for APA Women.

UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic.

Women's Refugee Commission.

STATE ORGANIZATIONS

Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma.

California Immigrant Policy Center.

Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

Maria Baldini-Potermin & Associates, PC.

Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

New York Immigration Coalition.

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

OneAmerica.

Pax Christi Florida.

Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project.

Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.

Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Justice Team.

Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates.

Voces de la Frontera.

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition.

Dominican Sisters of Houston.

Gesu Immigration Study Group.

Good Shepherd Immigration Study Group.

Gospel Justice Committee Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, MO.

Immigration Taskforce, SWPA Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Justice and Peace Committee/Sisters of St Joseph/West Hartford, CT.

Justice for Immigrants, District 4 & 5.

Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement.

PCUN, Oregon's Farmworker Union.

Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ.

Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester.

University of Miami School of Law Immigration Clinic.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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