Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12011164 (posted Apr. 21, 2014)"
America's immigration detention practices undermine the fundamental principles of due process and fairness, and require immediate systemic reform. Annually, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unnecessarily detains about 400,000 people, including asylum seekers and other vulnerable people. Many detainees are held for prolonged periods despite the fact that they have families, jobs and pose no threat to public safety. Detention is extremely expensive-costing American taxpayers $2 billion last year alone. Detention should be a last resort, used only when other means of supervision are not feasible, and especially when more cost effective alternatives are available.
Immigration detention has increased fivefold since 1996, reaching a record high in FY2012 of 477,523 individuals detained. The United States spends $5.6 million per day on immigration detention. Spending on detention has increased exponentially, from $864 million seven years ago to around $1.9 billion today. Immigration detention costs U.S. taxpayers between $122 and $164 per day; however, proven alternatives to detention cost between 17 cents and $17 per day.
The Detention Bed "Quota"
Each year since 2007, Congress has allocated funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain a certain number of detention beds, currently 34,000, creating the detention bed quota. No other law enforcement agency in the country makes detention decisions based upon a need to fill beds rather than an individualized assessment of risk factors. But ICE and some members of Congress interpret the appropriations language to require that the agency both maintain and fill detention beds on a daily basis. Reform should reiterate that detention decisions should be based in every case on an individual assessment, and that detention should only be used as a last resort.
AILA Resources on Detention