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End the Congressional Immigrant Bed Quota

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has released a review of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention policies which reveals some of the agency’s flawed detention practices. Specifically, it takes a look at what's known as the "Bed Quota". Since 2007, Congress has required that ICE maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds” at any given time.  The report focuses on ICE’s decision to release over 2,000 detainees in February 2013 and the reasons for the agency’s action. The Inspector General notes that during the fiscal year 2013, the agency was under budget constraints and struggled to secure funding to maintain the daily population of 34,000 immigration detainees, which had been mandated by Congress. However, congressional appropriations only covered about 31,000 of those beds. ICE therefore had to secure funding for the remaining beds.

The report also points out that in the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley increased by 66% and ICE was maintaining a daily average of about 35,000 immigrant detainees in it's facilities.

So basically, ICE is mandated by Congress to maintain an arbitrary number of beds for immigrant detainees without regard to the actual rate of apprehensions and aren't even given the adequate funding to handle all the detainees. Because of these budget issues and the increase of border apprehensions, ICE decided to release over 2,000 detainees in February 2013, which led to much scrutiny from the media and lawmakers, prompting this internal review.

What this really illuminates though, is the absolute absurdity of the bed quota. In his article for The Nation, Robert Morgenthau points out that even officials at DHS disagreed with the Congressional quota. He writes "at a congressional hearing in April 2013, then–Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano argued that ICE should be detaining people 'according to public-safety threats, level of offense…not an arbitrary bed number'”.  

Morgenthau goes on to write that beneficiary of the arbitrary mandate is the private prison industry, which has spent millions of dollars in lobbying. Even a small reduction in the number of immigrants locked up every day eats into their bottom line.

It's a shame that we are sacrificing civil rights for the sake of profits for the private prison industry.

 

Sources:

Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. ICE's Release of Immigration Detainees.  http://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/2014/OIG_14-116_Aug14.pdf

"The US Keeps 34,000 Immigrants in Detention Each Day Simply to Meet a Quota" by Robert Morgenthau. The Nation.  http://www.thenation.com/article/180972/us-keeps-34000-immigrants-detention-each-day-simply-meet-quota#