Immigration Detainee Release Could Save Billions

During the last week of February, hundreds of immigrants were released from detention centers as looming budget cuts changed the immigration conversation. American taxpayers foot the bill to detain more than 30,000 people each day, some of whom were detained for non-violent offenses. According to the National Immigration Forum, the government could save up to $1.6 billion a year if all non-criminal detainees were moved to alternative forms of supervision.

Miguel Hernandez, 19, is an undocumented immigrant who was arrested after being pulled over for failure to use his turn signal while driving. He was brought to a rural Georgia detention center for the offense, but was one of the individuals released after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) moved detainees to less costly supervision.

The Department of Homeland Security requested $2 billion in funding to detain immigrants for the 2013 fiscal year, which is October 1, 2012, to September 30, 2013. This money would allow ICE to detain up to 32,800 people in approximately 250 facilities. According to the National Immigration Forum, Congress has made clear intentions to fund immigration detention with taxpayer money that would exceed DHS’ request. President Obama requested a $91 million reduction in funding for Custody Operations, which decreases the daily cost to tax payers from $166 to $164 per immigrant detainee, which totals $5.54 million a day.

According to CNN, the White House Administration had no input on the decision to release minor offenders and the move was made by career ICE employees. The organization has reassured the public that immigrants with serious criminal histories are still in detention. All of the individuals also remain in deportation proceedings and will have various types of alternative supervision.