Biden admin scaling back detention of illegal immigrants, even amid migrant surge
The Biden administration attempted to put a deportation moratorium on ICE in 2021
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is scaling back its daily detention population of illegal immigrants, as well as its use of "alternatives to detention" -- even as the Department of Homeland Security is dealing with a historic surge in illegal migration at the border.
In its Congressional Budget Justification for fiscal 2024, President Biden's DHS provided a budget overview for ICE and included information about its plans to reduce its adult ADP -- or average daily population.
In FY 2023, the ADP was 34,000. In the justification, ICE says it will reduce that ADP by 9,000 to 25,000, at a cost of $157.20 per bed.
ICE said that funding for 25,000 beds would still maintain "ICE’s ability to effectively manage its current detainee population flows."
ICE DEPORTATIONS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CRIMINALS DROPPING SHARPLY UNDER BIDEN
"ICE retains the ability to apprehend, detain, and remove noncitizens that present a threat to national security, border security, and public safety. As noncitizens pass through immigration proceedings, sufficient and appropriate detention capacity provides ICE with adequate time and flexibility to gain custody of immigration law violators, ensure compliance with court procedures, and efficiently utilize transportation networks to remove priority individuals," the agency said.
The reduction of detention comes as the administration is also significantly scaling back on its deportations -- including of illegal immigrants. The same document says that it plans to deport just 29,393 illegal aliens in FY 2024, down from the 151,000 deported in FY 2020. But that comes even as the number of migrants flooding to the southern border and being released into the U.S. interior have increased.
Republicans have accused the Biden administration of targeting ICE’s ability to remove illegal immigrants with a thwarted attempt to place a moratorium on deportations in 2021, and restrictions that narrowed ICE priorities. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has bragged about how the administration has "fundamentally changed" interior enforcement.
"For the first time ever, our policy explicitly states that a non-citizen's unlawful presence in the United States will not, by itself, be a basis for the initiation of an enforcement action," he said in 2022.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., took aim at the move to cut detention space.
ICE DEPORTATIONS REMAINED WELL BELOW TRUMP-ERA LEVELS IN FY 2022, AMID HISTORIC BORDER CRISIS
"The Biden administration’s proposal to cut detention bed space amid unprecedented surges of migrants is a clear sign that the President wants to triple down on his catch-and-release, open borders agenda," she said.
"The historic humanitarian and national security crisis raging at our southern border is fueled by this Administration’s reckless policies and incentives that encourage people to illegally enter and reside in our country. President Biden has spent $330 million to store border wall materials instead of securing the border, and his latest budget proposal makes it clear that his priority is to continue the chaos."
Former acting ICE Director Thomas Homan told Fox News Digital that when he served in the agency, ICE had not only typically filled the current bed space, but reprogrammed money to go above the 35,000 cap, and said it was "untrue" that ICE could do its mission with lower detention levels.
"We had to reprogram money to buy more beds, so we've always used more beds. And now in a historic crisis, we need more beds," he said. "During the Trump administration when the surge started, we retained 55,000 people. So they're choosing to manage less beds."
Homan said detention was important because the chance of an illegal immigrant with an order being deported was significantly higher.
"If you're in ICE detention when you get an order of removal, you're removed 99% of the time. But if you're not in detention, and you get an order of removal if you're a family unit you leave 6% of the time, if you're a child, you leave 3% of the time," he said.
"This administration knows, based on immigration court data, most of these people don't qualify for asylum, and they'll be ordered removed," he said. "Also they know if they're not in ICE detention, the chance of them leaving is pretty close to zero."
Meanwhile, the agency also said it would reduce its average number of participants enrolled in Alternatives to Detention from 170,000 last fiscal year to just 74,056. That’s a drop of 95,944.
The use of Alternatives to Detention (ATD) have increased substantially during the Biden administration and typically involve a migrant who has been released into the U.S. being monitored by a smart phone app -- although it can also include check-ins in-person and the use of ankle bracelets -- as they go along with their immigration hearings.
FORMER TRUMP OFFICIALS SKEPTICAL OF BIDEN ADMIN'S REPORTED PLAN TO RESUME MIGRANT FAMILY DETENTION
ICE argues that the use of such methods "significantly mitigates the risk of noncitizen flight from immigration proceedings." The number of those enrolled in the program came as the Biden administration reduced its practice of giving migrants Notices to Appear in court and instead increase the use of "Parole plus ATD" -- which involves migrants being paroled into the U.S. under ATD.
While a much quicker process for overwhelmed officials at the border, it was recently blocked by a federal judge -- who accused the administration of turning the border into a "meaningless line in the sand."
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
ICE noted that in addition to the monitoring of migrants, ATD involves the use of additional services that includes "supplemental services, evaluation, human trafficking screening, trafficking group education, trauma informed individual therapy, individual rehabilitation, family therapy, parenting education, child abuse prevention, and repatriation support services."
The agency said that the reduction in compliance monitoring capacity "will not impede ICE’s ability to apprehend, detain, and remove noncitizens that present a threat to national security, border security, and public safety."
Homan, who served in both the Trump and Obama administrations, dismissed the justification and said that the Biden administration's goal was for ICE to do less.
"So when they say they're going to decrease ATD, and they're going to decrease detention, to me that means they want to be less effective and they want to remove less people," he said. "There's no other reason for them to do that."