U.S. authorities plan to transfer 1,600 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to federal prisons to keep pace with the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, an ICE spokeswoman said Thursday.
The transfers would be part of efforts to meet demand for ICE detention space and keep up with the Trump administration’s more hardline stance on illegal immigration, Reuters reported.
“To meet this need, ICE is collaborating with the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), private detention facility operators and local government agencies,” the ICE spokeswoman said in a statement.
The 1,600 detainees will be temporarily transferred to five federal prisons in California, Oregon, Texas and Washington state, while awaiting their civil immigration court hearings. The largest of these prisons, in Victorville, Calif., will house 1,000 detainees.
Thursday’s announcement drew some concerns from ICE officials and immigrant rights activists alike.
Kevin Landy, formerly ICE’s assistant director during the Obama years, said the move “raises oversight concerns.”
“A large percent of ICE detainees have no criminal records and are more vulnerable in a prison setting – security staff and administrators at BOP facilities have spent their careers dealing with hardened criminals serving long sentences for serious felonies, and the procedures and staff training reflect that,” Landy said. “This sudden mass transfer could result in some serious problems.”
"Federal prisons are for hardened criminals. They are not physically set up for immigrant landscapers looking for a job or fleeing violence."
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, argued that federal prisons, “are for hardened criminals. They are not physically set up for immigrant landscapers looking for a job or fleeing violence.”
Prison employee union officials have complained that they don’t have enough time to prepare for the large influx of detainees.
In particular, Victorville -- about 84.5 miles northeast of Los Angeles -- has had to move 500 inmates to a medium-security facility to make room for the new arrivals.
“Everyone is running around like a chicken without their head,” a local union president said.