The Obama budget proposal is out, and it would like to reduce the detention bed mandate by about 10%.
DHS is currently required to fill 34,000 immigrant detention center beds every day, regardless of what current immigration levels are or what detained immigrants have done (or not done) to get there. Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to end this hugely expensive and nonsensical mandate, pointing out that the detention bed mandate costs $2 billion a year when much cheaper and more humane alternatives (like ankle bracelets or check-ins) exist. The mandate also helps feed the Obama Administration’s record high rate of deportations, since it forcibly ensures that detention beds are full, regardless of whether those who get detained deserve to be.
The proposed 2015 Department of Homeland Security budget would reduce the mandate from 34,000 beds to about 30,500. That’s better than the omnibus spending bill that Congress passed in January, which kept the bed mandate at its current level. But it’s still an arbitrary and far too high number that pushes way too many immigrants — many of whom are eligible for legislative immigration reform — into detention and deportation.
The White House budget proposal is essentially a messaging device as to what the President’s priorities are, and advocates are wondering why this one leaves so much of the detention bed mandate in place. As Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) told the International Business Times:
The president’s budget belies his rhetoric on immigration, and it calls into question whether he is sincere about protecting immigrants and advancing immigration reform in the Congress. The administration cannot hide its own record behind Republican’s extremism when it continues to propose funding for extremely cruel enforcement. The President must stop ratifying the premises of the nativists, and he must resolve the hypocrisy reflected in his budget.
Added Alina Das, New York University Professor and co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic:
You are simply expanding the net of people who will end up being forced into the detention and deportation system. I worry that when you see these kinds of high numbers and allocations for what I view to be an arbitrary number of detention beds … will result in continuingly high numbers of people who are being detained even though the smarter solution and the more humane solution would be to shift to alternatives to detention.