As DHS Braces for Even Greater Surges of Illegal Immigration, ICE Requests Fewer Detention Beds
If you’re running the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and you’re coming off a record-setting month for migrants attempting to enter the country illegally, and anticipating that those numbers could double in the coming months, what do you do? Well, if you are Alejandro Mayorkas, you send one of your deputies to Capitol Hill to ask for 26 percent fewer detention beds to hold them…of course!
Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tae Johnson appeared before the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee on May 17 and told lawmakers that his agency would like to slash the already inadequate 34,000 detention beds for illegal migrants to just 25,000 next year. ICE is the agency charged with finding and removing illegal aliens in the interior of the country, a population that is growing significantly as a result of the Biden administration’s open border policies. In lieu of detaining illegal aliens, Johnson is seeking an additional $87 million in next year’s budget on “alternative to detention” – things like ankle bracelets, cell phone apps and check-ins that DHS’s own report found to be next to worthless.
Worthless is, of course, the administration’s goal. In Fiscal Year 2021, ICE deported a historically low number of illegal aliens, 59,011, and half of those removals occurred during the final months of the Trump administration. Since that time, Mayorkas has issued explicit guidelines that dramatically limit the pool of illegal aliens who may be subject to removal and restrict where ICE agents can look for them. Thus, the administration’s logic seems to be that if the objective is not to deport anyone, and your immigration enforcement officers have been ordered not to arrest anyone, then you don’t need all those detention beds.
Johnson, who apparently was able to keep a straight face, told subcommittee members that scrapping 9,000 detention beds is “just reflective of the administration’s position that alternatives to detention is the more appropriate and humane way of dealing with segments of the population that don’t pose a public safety or national security threat.” Unlike his boss, Mayorkas, who flat-out lied to Congress last month when he testified that DHS has “operational control” of the border, Johnson at least had the integrity to not say that alternatives to detention are more effective than detention. The aforementioned DHS report concluded that the agency could keep track of only 5 percent of illegal aliens who were not in custody.
Johnson’s testimony triggered a sharp rebuke from Republican members of the subcommittee. Rep. John Rutherford of Florida accused the administration of abusing prosecutorial discretion to the point of nullifying our nation’s immigration enforcement laws. With Republicans likely to regain control of Congress next year, they will have an opportunity to act to rein in this sort of abuse by the Executive Branch. High on the list of priorities in a legislative proposal put forth by FAIR and a broad coalition of public policy groups, are limits on the ability of rogue administrations to simply ignore immigration laws and a mandate to increase the detention capacity for all immigration enforcement agencies.