Bachus Asks Whether Government Overuses Immigration Detention

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praised Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) for breaking through the partisan tenor that shaped much of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about immigration detention. Bachus asked John T. Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whether ICE should spend $164 per person per day to detain individuals whose detention is not necessary to protect the public safety.

“Congressman Bachus today raised important questions about current ICE detention levels and responsible stewardship of government resources,” said Human Rights First’s Ruthie Epstein. “His questions today were in line with a growing recognition that ICE should be assessing risk on a case by case basis and not wasting taxpayer dollars to detain individuals who could be put on alternatives, including supervised release, bond, or recognizance.”

In the criminal justice system, individuals whose cases are pending – like the cases of immigration detainees – are routinely released to pretrial services and other alternatives to detention. These programs have been endorsed as cost-savers by the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy, Heritage Foundation, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Pretrial Justice Institute, International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Conference of Chief Justices.

Human Rights First notes that every year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains about 400,000 immigrants – including thousands of asylum seekers – in a sprawling system of jails and jail-like facilities across the country at a cost to taxpayers of $2 billion, and that the costs of immigration detention have risen dramatically over the past 15 years. Alternatives to Detention (ATD) programs, meanwhile, cost 30 cents to $14 per day per person, as compared to $164 per day per person for detention.


Published on March 19, 2013


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