Monday, November 05, 2007

The rising cost of immigrant detention

A year and a half ago Grits predicted "the coming immigration detention boom," and now we're seeing its fruits: The United States now spends nearly $1 billion per year for detention facilities housing undocumented immigrants awaiting adjudication of their deportation cases. The Los Angeles Times reports today that "In fiscal 2007 ... facilities run by ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] were at 95% capacity and the contracted private centers were at 98% capacity. ... "The immigration agency's budget for bed space skyrocketed to $945 million last year, up from $641 million in fiscal year 2005."

I wrote yesterday about the strain immigration detainees put on local county jails, and the LA Times story confirmed that with aggregate stats:
The majority of detainees, about 63%, are held at hundreds of city and county jails around the nation. The rest are housed at eight centers operated by the immigration agency and seven private facilities run by companies such as the Corrections Corp. of America and the GEO Group.
While Wall Street sees profit in the policy, at least for private prison vendors, reliance on private contractors brings with it its own problems, starting with expensive lawsuits resulting from systemic abuse. With corrections facilities everywhere struggling to hire enough quality staff, I'd be surprised if it's possible to maintain that level of growth in the near future.


Anonymous said...

while i worked for TYC i was amazed/shocked when i first entered the agency to see that texans' tax dollars were going to house undocumented immigrants that were committed to TYC for bringing drugs across our borders. to my amazement there were so many of these types of cases, i know because they were on my overflowing caseload. i just found it and still do find it absurd that we are working with and expected to deal with mexico's headaches by housing them and giving them food shelter and services. I guess this is just another flaw of the TYC system. i have also heard of some tales that our youth (in TYC) when their "time was up' would then just spend more months or even years in another immigrant detention center to determine their fate. can you imagine more tax payers money going to housing these illegal immigrants for years? that is insane!! I cannot fathom why the courts would agree to "rehabilitate" these youth instead of just deporting them back to the mexican "judicial" system. whatever that may be.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's exactly what happens in the adult system, too. ICE doesn't deport them until after they've served their sentence, never before. And they go straight from TDCJ to an immigration detention facility.

OTOH, look at it this way: if a kid murders somebody, do you really just want to drop them off on the other side of the river and be done with it? It's not like it's that hard to get back, even these days, and if their family is here they'll likely try. Personally, for that reason, I'd rather TYC try to rehabilitate them.

Anonymous said...

It's not just "undocumented immigrants" who are locked up. All too often the detainees are legitimate green card holders, refugees, asylees, and even U.S. citizens. One Mr. Rebilas was held for three years until the 9th Circuit decided he wasn't deportable after all:

Anonymous said...

If you think these PEOPLE want to be held in these detention centers for months, even years, you're delusional. The last comment was absolutely correct - all too often it's a legal immigrant. Why on EARTH are they being detained for ridiculous reasons?! Half the time, they haven't even committed any crime. Conditions are terrible - detainees are given only one pair of underwear at times and illness goes untreated and often results in death. No human being deserves that sort of treatment.