The Constitution Project applauded the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent decision to rely on alternatives to detention for hundreds of individuals held in immigration detention centers.
“[W]e should set politics aside and recognize that this is a smart, cost-effective, and overdue policy decision. We have long argued that the federal government should not detain individuals…sometimes in unsafe and inhumane conditions, when they pose little to no threat to public safety and can be monitored in other ways,” said TCP President Virginia Sloan.
The Obama administration announced on February 26 that it had released hundreds of individuals held in immigration detention facilities, saying it could no longer afford to house them because of across-the-board spending cuts that recently took effect. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials within DHS, there was a daily average of 30,773 detainees in custody as of February 23, 2013.
In December 2009, TCP’s Liberty and Security Committee released Recommendations for Reforming our Immigration Detention System and Promoting Access to Counsel in Immigration Proceedings. The report urged DHS and Congress to better utilize alternatives to detention, including electronic monitoring and in-person reporting at regular intervals, which would lead to significant cost savings for the federal government.
Last May, TCP joined a coalition of immigration, civil rights, civil liberties, faith-based, and community organizations in urging the Senate Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations to support DHS’s request for reduced funding for immigration detention beds and to recommend greater spending on alternatives to detention. These recommended measures are appropriate steps toward reducing what has become a costly over-reliance on detention of non-citizens.