Profiting off ICE detention centers needs to end
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, has managed to put a price on the deprivation of liberty.
In 2009, Congress placed a requirement on ICE to fund a minimum of 34,000 beds for the stay of detained immigrants. This senseless requirement, also known as the national detention bed quota, deteriorates the United States’ already busted immigration system and derails hope for comprehensive immigration reform.
The Detention Watch Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights recently published, “Banking on Detention: Local Lockup Quotas & the Immigrant Dragnet,” a report that exposes the corrupt detention system the US government cheerfully participates in.
The report reveals that 62 percent of detention beds are operated by privately owned for-profit prison companies. As if that were not enough tax payer dollars being tossed at private companies, many detention centers owned by the government are serviced by privately contracted third party companies for services such as food, security and transportation.
“In the last decade the detention system has grown by 75 percent, an expansion that depends heavily on ICE’s increasing use of private contractors to operate and provide services at immigration jails across the country” the report says.
If that is not disappointing enough, a large portion of the 2016 fiscal year budget of over $2 billion will be for the benefit of for-profit contractors.
“ICE’s contracts with private detention companies have exacerbated the effects of the federal detention bed quota by imposing local ‘lockup’ quotas, contractual provisions that obligate ICE to pay for a minimum number of immigration detention beds at specific facilities, referred to in contracts as ‘guaranteed minimums,’” the report says.
These contractual provisions obligate ICE to pay private contractors for beds, occupied or unoccupied, adding unnecessary pressured to hunt for bodies to keep the beds warm at all times.
Individuals who are detained for crossing the border without permission, or reside in the United States without written consent, are not a threat to the community.
“They’re not play-risk, they don’t threaten the safety of our community, and detaining them not only makes no sense, it wastes tax payer money,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida.
The government is correct in intercepting and detaining those who violate immigration law, whether by crossing the border, or living and working without permission. But time served in detention should be limited and bed quotas need to be abolished.
One of the solutions proposed is the use of ankle bracelets that, with supervised release, will reduce cost significantly and bring a more humane process.
“The purpose of detention is in truth, not supposed to be punitive, it’s to ensure that people show up in court,” Deutch said.
If only the United States would direct funding to other areas in need of improvement, such as education or health benefits, the country would observe a more lasting improvement. Instead, for-profit companies are leeching off our country’s tax dollars.
“Decision to detain someone should be made on a case-by-case basis and should be made by professionals in law enforcement, not by politicians in Washington, and certainly not as a result of pre-paid bed quotas,” Deutch said.
Perfection is rare, almost impossible, but striving to be is not. Although The United States immigration system is not perfect, it’s never too late to solve the issue, oil up the machine, and reboot it in an effort to implement a new system that promises respect to any human, regardless of nationality, and one which respects basic human rights.
This country tries hard to lead by example. It’s time we live up to our own expectations.
Opinion columnist Sebastian Troitiño is a finance and marketing junior and may be reached at [email protected]