Democrats moved Tuesday to slash by 60% the amount of space available to hold illegal immigrants at Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails nationwide while doing away with ICE family housing centers, using President Trump’s own policy of turning away people at the border as a rationale for cutting an agency he wants to expand.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security on Tuesday approved by voice vote the 2021 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes money to make 22,000 ICE beds available daily — down from the 54,000 beds that were in use in an average day last August.
The funding bill gives ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arm, which handles arresting and detaining illegal immigrants, $3.3 billion in fiscal 2021. It is $1.1 billion less than last year’s funding and $2.4 billion less than Trump had requested.
“The primary cause [for the decline in funding] has been the suite of new administration policies to quickly remove migrants at the border with little or no due process. Primarily as a result of these policies, migrant transfers from [Customs and Border Protection] to ICE, custody has dropped precipitously, along with the corresponding need for ICE beds,” said subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat.
But immigration experts have predicted that the coronavirus could spur economic decline in Central America and Mexico, prompting a massive migration surge to the United States. Although the Trump administration has constructed new border barriers and is temporarily sending back all migrants due to public health concerns, it is not clear how ICE and CBP would respond to a border crisis with 22,000 or fewer beds to detain people through deportation proceedings.
“We will not solve our nation’s immigration problem if we simply starve this agency of critical resources to the point it is unable to implement or enforce the laws on the books,” said Republican Texas Rep. Kay Granger.
Ranking member Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican, said that ICE must be fully funded to do its job and that a shortfall in beds upends its ability to carry out its duties.
During last year’s border crisis, nearly 100,000 immigrants were taken into custody at the southern border each month. Since January, fewer than 30,000 people have been arrested each month. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, DHS changed border policies, turning away asylum seekers and immediately returning migrants who had illegally crossed the border to Mexico in an effort to prevent large numbers of people being held in close quarters in detention. DHS cited a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the basis for its decision.
Roybal-Allard said that in light of the coronavirus and need for 6 feet between ICE beds, the subcommittee would only allow ICE to make available 10,000 of the 22,000 funded beds.
Author: Anna Giaritelli
Source: Washington Examiner: Democratic ICE cuts would restrain Trump from detaining illegal immigrants