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US taxpayers spend over $2 billion a year to meet “quota” for detaining immigrants

Each year about 400,000 people are placed in immigration detention. Some will spend a few days and others could spend years in immigration detention facilities. We pay over $2 billion a year to detain 34,000 immigrants each day. Between 2009 and 2011, more than 50% of these detainees did not have a criminal history. Why are these non-criminals being held at a cost up to $159 per day per individual? .

In 2007, Congress enacted the bed quota (mandatory number of bed spaces that ICE must maintain). ICE interprets this quota to require ICE to keep every bed filled every day. This results in thousands of non-criminals being detained. Immigration detention is designed to ensure compliance with court hearings and final orders of removal or to protect the community where an individual poses a safety threat. Most of those detained are held in a network of county jails, privately run contract facilities, and federal facilities. Thus, immigration detention is big business.

Eliminating a bed quota does not mean that immigration enforcement or detention would disappear.Forcibly locking people up to fill a bed quota seems to violate our principles of due process and fairness. If the local police department operated under a quota system for filling its jails, most Americans would be protest this practice. Yet, the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014 mandates that detentions at the current level continue.

 

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