The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, one of three federal immigration groups within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), oversees the detention of hundreds of thousands of people charged with civil immigration violations, per year, but the detainment practices has been further criticized in a new report by immigrant rights advocates.

In a report titled "Banking On Detention: Local Lockup Quotas and the Immigrant Dragnet," by Detention Watch Network (DWN) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), it emphasized on ICE's detainment quota, which have been set by Congress. As the report noted, in 2009, Congress "implemented a requirement to fund a minimum number of beds [currently 34,000 beds] dedicated to detention at any given time in its annual appropriations bill." The congressional policy has been referred to as the "national detention bed quota," and the detainment has since increased every year from 383,524 during the 2009 fiscal year to 477,000 in the 2012 fiscal year.

The report stated ICE was "under pressure" to increase immigration detention beds during each fiscal year after the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 required the increase. Also under pressure by congressional lawmakers -- namely Republicans from Kentucky and Texas -- that there were plenty of empty beds, then-House Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said he did not want an empty bed. By 2009, Congress formally introduced a national bed quota, and it must be filled.

The CCR and DWN report stated, "Over time, congressional frustration over empty beds has grown. In April 2015, after a heated exchange with ICE Director Sarah Saldaña, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, suggested that the current quota language be altered to replace the word 'maintain' with 'fill.'"

Local lockup quotas for immigrants were also in place due to "guaranteed minimums," which are "contractual provisions that obligate ICE to pay for a minimum number of immigration detention beds at specific facilities." This concept, however, predated the national lockup quota.

"Because guaranteed minimums require payment to private contractors whether beds are filled or not, they function as local lockup quotas, incentivizing ICE to fill detention beds because of the contract stipulation," the report continued. "Present exclusively in contracts with private companies, the growth of local lockup quotas is inextricably linked to the rise of corporate interests in immigration detention.

"The detention of immigrants has become big business and a source of profit, yet comes with a significant moral and financial cost for everyone involved," said DWN Co-Director Silky Shah. "Local quotas with private contractors and the infrastructure of detention itself have driven this market: all at a huge expense to families detained arbitrarily and to taxpayers footing the bill."

As CCR and DWN noted, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Phoenix, Miami, Seattle, Houston, San Diego, Buffalo, New Orleans and Newark are major cities with local lockup quotas.

"Local lockup quotas depend on a lack of government transparency about how these contractual arrangements deprive individuals of liberty," said Ghita Schwarz, senior staff attorney at CCR. "These contracts provide incentives not only to detain large numbers of immigrants, but also to detain them in specific facilities, no matter how far they are from an individual's community."

"When immigrants are detained far from home in order to serve a local lockup quota, they lose access to families, attorneys, and resources that could help them fight their detention or deportation," added Schwarz in a statement.

DWN and CCR issued recommendations for ICE to implement. In addition to removing guaranteed minimums and any provisions that could function as a local lockup quota, recommendations include further transparency on all detention contracts, bar transfer of detainees between detention facilities, manipulation of bond or parole determinations and for Congress to remove the national detention bed quota from the DHS' 2016 fiscal year appropriations bill.


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