Impending federal budget cuts could result in more than 5,000 detained immigrants being released from detention, according to a report by the Associated Press. The news agency reported that internal budget documents show that about 2,000 detainees awaiting possible deportation have already been released and about 3,000 more will likely be set free in March.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a statement in response to the AP's report, stating that ICE plans to stay within budget restrictions by supervising hundreds of detainees through other methods that are less expensive than detention. She said all detainees will remain in removal proceedings.
Immigration detention is meant to hold people who have been suspected of living in the country illegally or breaking the law as they await possible deportation. Although, many immigrants who are being held in detention have not been convicted of crimes.
The Associated Press reported that immigrant advocates have argued for years that lower priority immigrants should not be held in detention because it is so costly. In fact, holding a suspected illegal immigrant in detention costs between $122 and $164 per day, according to the National Immigration Forum.
Facing deportation or removal can be a very scary and confusing experience for immigrants and their families. It's essential that people facing deportation have an experienced immigration lawyer in their corner who can fight for their rights. There is too much to lose by being removed from the United States.
Early last year, ICE announced a new plan to use "prosecutorial discretion" in deportation cases, which often results in low-priority individuals being released from detention if they do not have a criminal record or otherwise pose a threat to society. This means people without a criminal record now stand a better chance at avoiding deportation.
Source: ABC News, "Over 2,000 Released From Immigration Jails (report)," Ted Hesson, March 1, 2013