Sunday, April 6, 2014
In recent years, Congress has funded a set number of immigrant detention beds -- currently 34,000 on a daily basis around the country. As Congress gets ready to debate the federal budget, one thing that will come up is a proposed reduction in funding for these beds, which the agency rents from a mix of private contractors and local governments.
Orange County began renting vacant jail cells to ICE in 2010 in hopes of easing the county's budget shortfall. Today the county is paid $118 dollars per person, per day, to house up to 838 ICE detainees in two county jails.
Assistant Orange County Sheriff Steve Kea said taking in detainees helps the county pay its overall jail costs.
“Putting the ICE detainees in those vacant areas allows for them to pay for part of our staffing – cooks, security staff and other things along those lines," Kea said. "So that is where we are saving money, not so much generating revenue.”
The $25 to $30 million dollars the county gets from ICE each year also covers jail system expenses like food, mattresses, utilities and other costs.
In fiscal year 2014, ICE held a daily average of more than 31,000 detainees in a patchwork of facilities around the country. At an average rate of $119 dollars per bed, detaining these immigrants costs the government – and taxpayers - millions a day.
UC Davis law school dean Kevin Johnson questions the need to fund so much detention space.
"It's hard to justify a guaranteed number of beds being filled when you have no idea whether legitimate law enforcement is going to fill those beds," Johnson said.
In its proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, the Obama administration suggests cutting the number of detention beds that the government is required to fund from the current 34,000 a day to about 30,500, which would save nearly $185 million dollars. Read more...