65 Members of Congress Urge President to Eliminate Detention Bed Mandate in FY15 Budget
Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21) and Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) sent a letter signed by 63 of their colleagues to President Obama urging him to remove a FY15 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security that mandates Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have over thirty thousand immigrants in detention at all times. The letter emphasizes that in an era of fiscal restraint, this mandate undermines the ability of ICE to exercise discretion and embrace more cost-effective alternatives to detention. Currently, ICE spends $159 per detainee -- amounting to $5.05 million per day and over $2 billion annually spent on immigration detention -- when alternatives to detention are available that cost as little as 70 cents to $17 a day.
"Mandatory detention comes at a high cost both for taxpayers and immigrant families who are needlessly torn apart," said Foster. "Not only is this quota fiscally irresponsible, but it makes it impossible for DHS to make rational decisions about detention based on enforcement priorities and needs. It is time to end this costly and unjust practice."
"It would be unimaginable for Congress to mandate to other law enforcement agencies how many people they must jail on a daily basis, but that is exactly what this detention bed mandate does to ICE," said Congressman Ted Deutch. "It is time to bring ICE offices across the country in line with the best practices of other law enforcement agencies, which apprehend and detain individuals based on actual need as opposed to a mandate from Washington."
In the letter to the President, the members of Congress write, "An arbitrary number of detention beds needed by ICE leads to ineffective immigration enforcement, runs contrary to American values of due process, and is a wasteful use of taxpayer dollars. A major symptom of our broken immigration system is the excessive spending on detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually, particularly when effective and less expensive alternatives to detention can, and should, be used. The use of detention beds should be determined by ICE based on whether detention is required for particular individuals. Such a determination should be premised on an individualized assessment of flight risk and danger posed to the public. Mandating government spending on an arbitrary, predetermined number of detention beds is contrary to the best practices in law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security's priorities to reform the detention system."
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