Federal immigration officials not only have a record number of immigrants locked up in detention facilities, the agency also has thousands more people in custody than Congress has budgeted for. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Daily Beast reports, is refusing to say where the additional funding is coming from.
“ICE recently reported to Congress that, as of October 20, its average daily population in detention had reached 44,631 people,” approximately “4,000 more people than Congress has funded.” And the extra cash? September may offer a clue, when the Trump administration funneled tens of millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to lock up families.
“In September, when I discovered that ICE had been reprogramming FEMA dollars to pay for immigrant detention centers, I wasn’t given the information from the administration,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. “I wasn’t given the information as a member of the Senate appropriations committee. I found the information through outside resources.”
More immigrants in federal custody—including many with no criminal record at all—also means more will be exposed to abusive and violent conditions within immigration detention centers. This past October, the office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general uncovered “serious violations” during a surprise visit of a privately run, for profit detention center in California, including “nooses in detainee cells,” falsified medical exams, and prison officials placing a disabled man who asked for administrative segregation into disciplinary segregation.”
With Democrats set to take power in the House next year, it’s long past due for oversight over ICE’s actions. “Congress should absolutely not pay a single penny more to fuel the administration’s agenda until there are clear and transparent explanations for what they’re planning on doing with the money,” Merkley continued. “Make no mistake, this is, at least in part, an effort to advance their plan to inflict maximum cruelty on many people who are seeking asylum in this country after fleeing danger and in their home countries.”