Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

Trump Moves to Expand Federal Immigration Jails Nationwide

Illegal Migrants are placed in holding facilities before they are returned to Mexico.
Photo credit: US Customs and Border Protection

Trump is making yet another move to transform the land of the free and the home of the brave into an incarceration nation governed by fear.

The administration is preparing to expand federal immigration jails across the country, in order to detain thousands more undocumented immigrants. It claims it’s doing this to support “its public safety mission,” even though it is well documented that immigrants commit far fewer crimes than citizens.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is sniffing out potential private jails in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and south Texas for the expansion.

Note that many of those places are far from the southern border. That’s significant because while the Obama administration primarily arrested people at the border, the Trump administration is arresting people in communities throughout the U.S.

The White House is probably concerned that the current prisons and jails that detain 31,000 to 41,000 people on any given day will not be sufficient to incarcerate the 48,000 people a day it calls for in the 2018 budget.

The administration has already cranked up its deportation machine. From January 22 to September 9, ICE arrested 97,482 suspected undocumented immigrants – a 43 percent increase over the same time period in 2016.

Every time ICE deports someone, it costs taxpayers an average of $10,854.

It’s tempting to repeat what we reported yesterday: “It seems the current administration in Washington is so dedicated to its immigrant restrictionist agenda that it reflects very little on the damaging consequences of its policy changes.” That statement referred to how ending DACA would cost the country billions of dollars due to the loss of a productive young workforce. The same applies to mass detention and deportation.

Putting aside for a moment the devastating impacts mass deportation has on individuals, families and communities, let’s simply look at monetary costs.

Adult immigration detention costs taxpayers approximately $160 per detainee per day. Multiply that by 48,000 and you get $7.6 million a day. Multiply that by 365 days and you get $2.8 billion a year.

Every time ICE deports someone, it costs taxpayers an average of $10,854. Multiply that by the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country, and you get $119 billion.

Then factor in the loss of the $11.6 billion a year undocumented immigrants pay in taxes, and the tens of billions of dollars DACA beneficiaries alone contribute to the annual GDP.

The evidence is clear: The Trump administration’s actions are not motivated by a desire to save taxpayers money or by a concern for public safety. They are motivated by racism that blinds them to the facts. They are also motivated by reciprocity: Private prisons, which stand to benefit enormously from Trump’s mass deportation machine, donated at least hundreds of thousands of dollars to the President.

DHS and ICE has so far only announced “Requests for Information” regarding this expansion of federal immigration jails. That’s the first step in a long process, which means there is time to work to stop it.

Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund will keep you updated on this issue.