The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released several hundred immigrants from detention facilities, noting the fiscal crisis has limited financial resources, according to The Washington Post. On February 22, The Post reported that the average immigration court case takes 550 days before a decision is made, causing many to be held for a prolonged period of time.
Under the Obama administration, immigrants and non-permanent legal residents have been placed in detention in record numbers. For immigration activists, the news comes as a pleasant surprise as many detained individuals do not pose a security threat. ICE reported that detention alternatives include electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring, scheduled check-ins at a local ICE office and telephone monitoring.
“There are some folks in detention right now who shouldn’t be there,” Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice, told The Post. “We do know that administration has treated driving without a license as if it’s been a heinous crime. They sometimes detain asylum seekers. There are other ways to ensure people show up for immigration hearings that are much more cost-effective.”
With a week before mandatory budget cuts go into effect, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said that the detention policy will be impacted because there aren’t enough funds for the suggested 34,000 detention beds for immigration. ICE estimated that detention costs $122 per bed per day, which has long been scrutinized as a wasteful practice. The National Immigration Forum, an advocacy group, said costs range between 30 cents and $14 per day for supervised release.
Doris Meissner, Clinton’s former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said it is unclear whether the decision was a constructive policy shift against deportation for people who aren’t hardened criminals, or to show the damaging effects of sequestration.