Unbeknownst to many Americans, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency – or ICE – has a congressional mandate in place called the “detention bed mandate”. This policy requires 250 of the nation’s immigration detention facilities to collectively have a minimum of 34,000 beds filled with immigrant detainees on a daily basis. Some of the detainees and their families have been in contact with various immigration law firms looking for help in fighting what many believe is an unjust congressional policy. It is not uncommon for individuals who are captured by Border Patrol or ICE officials to remain locked in such detention centers for months or even years with no legal recourse.
The average daily cost per detainee in America’s immigration detention centers is approximately $120. That translates to over $2 billion annually when all the detainees in all the detention centers in America are taken into account. Supporters of the mandate, which took effect in 2009, argue that it is in place as a means to encourage and compel the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to enforce current immigration laws. Opponents, however, argue that maintaining an arbitrary number of detainees on a daily basis doesn’t lead to any measureable improvement in the country’s immigration situation.
There are just as many people locked up in these immigration detention centers that have no criminal history whatsoever as there are individuals who do. The ones who do are typically violent offenders and it is difficult for anyone to argue against their being detained and eventually deported. Immigrant rights activists say that ICE officials and local police officers around the country are arresting greater numbers of immigrants for increasingly insignificant reasons. The most minor traffic violations and other convictions that would be considered ignorable in any other situation are qualifying immigrants as “criminal aliens” and being used as justification for indefinite incarceration in detention facilities.
There are also a number of people who straddle the fence, so to speak, when it comes to this particular issue. While the mandate they say is indeed a means to no particularly helpful end, there does need to be some kind of detention mandate for immigrants who are in the country without proper documentation. The excessive costs and resources required to maintain the detention bed mandate are a justifiable argument against it in most people’s opinion. Detention is indeed the most reliable method of holding individuals until they can either be tried or deported but, as a former ICE official claimed, implementing tens of thousands more detention beds is not a realistic endeavor.
The Senate passed an immigration bill earlier in the year calling for an increase in detention bed alternatives. The bill is more or less ineffective, however, until the House passes new immigration reform. The federal government does not have the money to solve the problem on the scale that it needs to be solved and it is unlikely that taxpayers will be very keen on their dollars being used to detain every single immigrant that commits a minor offense.
If you or someone you know has been detained in one of these immigrant detention centers or needs legal counsel related to another similar issue, please visit the Austin Immigration Law Firm Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC website or calls their offices in Austin, Texas at 512-215-5225.