At $119 per day, Immigrant Detention Too Costly in Sequester Crisis

At $119 per day, Immigrant Detention Too Costly in Sequester Crisis


According to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the average cost for holding an undocumented immigrant in detention is $119 per day. Yet alternative methods of tracking can run between 17 cents to $17.78 per day. Due to the sequester, the Department of Homeland Security has released 2,000 undocumented immigrants in recent weeks and will release another 3,000 in March according to an Associated Press report. Immigrants who are released and placed in an alternative detention (ankle bracelets and parole) still face deportation and have to follow reporting requirements with ICE.

Despite the releases being limited and the reality that the immigrants who have been let go are still being monitored, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano still regrets the way in which immigrant detention has been handled in the sequester crisis. According to Alicia Caldwell of the Associated Press:

“The states where immigrants were released include Arizona, California, Georgia and Texas.

The White House has said it was not consulted about the releases, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has acknowledged they occurred in a manner she regrets. White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday said the government had released “a few hundred” of the roughly 30,000 illegal immigrants held in federal detention pending deportation proceedings. Carney said the immigrants released were “low-risk, noncriminal detainees,” and the decision was made by career ICE officials.”

In dealing with the budget cuts resulting from the sequester, the Department of Homeland Security has an opportunity to see if it can monitor detainees more efficiently and more humanely. A PBS Frontline report from October 2011 showed that there were over 170 allegations of sexual abuse in the previous four years. And recent reports show that ICE has been aggressively pushing to increase it deportation (and along with that comes immigrant detention) numbers to meet certain targets. Given the criticisms  of how ICE has handled detainees in the recent past, the current budget crisis gives DHS and the Obama administration a chance to try some new tactics for monitoring immigrants who may very well be eligible for legalization in an upcoming comprehensive immigration bill.