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Despite Closing Multiple Migrant Detention Centers, The Biden Admin Is Asking Congress To Fund More Holding Space

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Jennie Taer Investigative Reporter
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Despite closing down several Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, the Biden administration is asking Congress to fund more bed space the agency uses to hold illegal aliens.

Throughout President Joe Biden’s tenure in the White House, ICE has cut detention contracts and closed at least four facilities holding detainees across the country, with more closures expected to come. The Biden administration asked Congress in October to fund additional beds for ICE to hold detainees as part of a supplemental funding request. (RELATED: Blue State Court Released Illegal Immigrant Charged With Assault, Rape)

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in November asked the Senate Appropriation Committee on Nov. 8 to increase the number of detention beds to 46,500 when appropriating funding for ICE, arguing such an increase is necessary “to prevent overcrowding and dangerous conditions in Border Patrol facilities.”

“Additional ICE bedspace will allow DHS to process more recent border crossers on expedited timelines when we see increased encounters and swiftly remove those without a legal basis to stay in the country,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said of the Biden administration’s request to Congress.

However, under the Biden administration, ICE has closed or ended contracts with the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, the Yuba County Jail in California, C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Massachusetts and the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 6: An ICE agent monitors hundreds of asylum seekers being processed upon entering the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building on June 6, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

The Biden administration closed the ICE Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania after facing pressure from activist organizations over a guard sexually assaulting a detainee nearly a decade ago, according to a 69 News from January. ICE terminated its contract to hold illegal aliens in the Yuba County Jail in California, the sheriff’s office said in December 2022.

Ahead of the Yuba County decision, Democratic California Rep. Zoe Lofgren urged ICE to close the facility over “a lack of medical care, broken hygiene facilities, unsanitary conditions including mold and insects, spoiled food, and excessive use of solitary confinement, leading to repeat protests and hunger strikes, when formal complaints were mishandled.”

In May 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directed ICE to stop detaining illegal aliens in the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The move followed allegations of abuse and “excessive and disproportionate” use of force, according to a report from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.

In May 2021, Mayorkas directed ICE to close the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, which was under investigation after female detainees alleged that nonconsensual medical procedures were conducted on them, including forced sterilizations and removal of vital reproductive organs.

ICE is also expected to close a facility with the capacity to hold roughly 2,000 inmates in Adelanto, California imminently, according to Fox News. In September 2020, ICE had to limit the number of detainees sent to the facility due to a court order in a lawsuit over concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks in the facility.

“ICE does not comment on ongoing or pending litigation or its outcome. As part of routine strategic operational planning, ICE continually assesses various factors when contemplating whether to enter new contracts for facilities or terminate existing facility contracts,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement to the DCNF.

“Discussions with detention providers, including state and local partners, are critical to ICE’s custody management mission and occur on a regular basis. Significant agency changes/updates are publicly announced when operationalized,” the ICE spokesperson added.

Republican California Rep. Jay Obernolte has been pressing the Biden administration on its handling of the Adelanto case. Obernolte believes the Biden administration must change its policies to use existing detention beds to hold illegal aliens.

“Although DHS is required by law to detain illegal immigrants, the agency’s improper utilization of existing detention space has led to a debilitating release of illegal immigrants into U.S. communities,” Obernolte told the DCNF. “It’s time for ICE and DHS to work with Congress to secure the border and bring an end to the crisis that is overwhelming support services and law enforcement authorities throughout our country.”

In addition to the multiple closures of contracted ICE facilities, the agency also has had thousands of detention beds sitting empty while illegal immigration has surged to record levels, according to a DCNF review of agency data in October. ICE’s facility in Adelanto, for example, had an average daily population of 16 illegal aliens where there is bed space for 640 individuals, according to ICE data as of Sept. 18.

ICE’s Tacoma, Washington, processing center, had an average daily population of 570 migrants despite having space for 1,181 detainees, according to the review. The agency’s Houston contract detention facility had an average of 577 individuals in custody per day, while containing bed space for 750.

Closing the Adelanto facility will make it even more difficult for the agency to conduct law enforcement duties, an ICE official told the DCNF.

“This will only limit ICE’s enforcement even more.  ICE arrests will basically diminish and take a hit from what was already a very difficult situation agents are facing daily,” said the official, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Two ICE facilities in Louisiana, Pine Prairie Processing Center and South Louisiana Processing Center, are being consolidated due to staff issues, leading the agency to reduce the number of detainees, an agency spokesperson recently told the DCNF.

“ICE has one contract that covers both the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center and South Louisiana ICE Processing Center. Due to staffing challenges in both facilities, ICE is consolidating its detention population by limiting the use of Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center and focusing its efforts on the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center,” an ICE spokesperson said.

“The current detention population at Pine Prairie will be reduced through detainee transfers to a nearby facility, completed final orders of removal, or individual releases as determined by a law enforcement officer on a case-by-case basis. This consolidation is not part of an effort to reduce overall detention capacity but is instead an administrative action designed to maximize detention efficiency and the use of our limited detention resources,” the spokesperson added.

Funding for more ICE bed space is possible and should be done on the condition that they must be filled and not in sanctuary jurisdictions, former ICE Chief of Staff under the Trump administration Jon Feere told the DCNF.

“It’s not enough for Congress to fund ICE beds at the level requested by the Biden administration, which has no interest in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws,” said Feere, who now serves as the Director of Investigations for the Center for Immigration Studies. “Congress must fund thousands more beds, consistent with the mass illegal immigration Mayorkas has welcomed in, require that the beds are filled to near-capacity at all times, and also require they be established in jurisdictions that are not illegal alien sanctuaries.”

Neither the White House nor DHS responded to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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