I. Introduction: ICE's reckless fiscal management of its abusive system of immigration jails
Many of the immigrants who are detained by ICE are victims of domestic violence, children in need of emergency care, activists who spoke out, people seeking redress for wage theft, recipients of DACA, asylum seekers and their children, and other individuals who are erroneously entered into gang databases but were actually victims of gang violence.
Furthermore, ICE often engages in blanket refusals to release immigrants from detention during deportation proceedings.
ICE has failed to be transparent about their fiscal management and detention operations. It is reported that these failures by ICE to report to the public contributes to the overall failure of ICE to account for its ongoing human rights violations.
The report lays out 3 major concerns:
- "Misrepresentation of its so-called operational need for detention space;
- Inflated detention cost estimates and willingness to prioritize demands of prison contractors over responsible stewardship; and
- Disregard for congressional oversight."
II. ICE artificially inflates its "operational Needs"
In 1994, about 6,800 people were held in detention. In 2017, almost 40,500 people on a daily average were jailed by ICE. For 2018, the White House has required increased funding to hold over 51,000 people.
ICE now wants billions of new taxpayer dollars to fund their "needs." ICE has tried to justify its required increase in funding based on the White House's executive order, however, the executive order itself does not mention or request increased funding. In addition ICE requests its increased funding to support 1) an increase in arrests, charging documents, and detainers issued against immigrants; and 2) an increase the average length of stay in detention centers.
ICE has further attempted to justify its needs by attempting to shift toward a policy of detaining all asylum seekers, even those who have already been in the U.S. for many years and have become productive, tax paying, members of our community.
A recent example of ICE's manipulation of their budget showed ICE, in September 2017, planning a massive nationwide enforcement operation intending to target 8,400 immigrants. When the plan was made public, ICE immediately announced that it would postpone its enforcement operation "due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma."
III. ICE manipulates its bed costs, benefiting detention contractors and endangering immigrants
Although ICE continues to ask for more money while claiming that its costs are rising. In reality, 65% of ICE's jails are operated by for-profit companies. It is well documented that for profit companies already drive down costs and maximize profits. Therefore, like other local jails, ICE's contracts also include extremely low per diem fees, some as low as $30 per day.
IV. ICE ignores U.S. Law and congressional oversight.
The report indicates that in the areas where Congress has attempted to provide oversight, ICE has remained non-compliant or evasive.
In May 2017, Congress passed a supplemental appropriations bill providing ICe with $2.6 Billion to massively increase its detention capacity. However, Congress noted that "ICE's forecasting of its daily population as well as its daily bed rate calculations were not only 'unrealistic' but 'not based on a validated cost estimation methodology,' resulting in forecasting that had 'missed the mark by wide margins' for several years." See House Report, Division F (Homeland Security), Consolidated
Appropriations Act of 2017, 131 Stat. 135, Public Law No. 115-31, May 4, 2017, http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20170501/DIVISION%20F-%20HOMELAND%20
Out of the over 200 detention facilities, 151 facilities are contracted to the lowest level of detention standards from 2000. In the past year alone, Congress has paused and passed DHS Appropriations Act of 2017 and the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2011 to raise the level of care these detention centers have. However, ICE continues to refuse to rise to the standards set by Congress. Over the past year, ICE signed or reactivated 54 detention contracts that failed to abide by the standards set by Congress, instead requiring the outdated 2000 standards in direct violation of Congress' mandate. The report is unaware of any reporting by ICE to Congress the provide justification for its actions.
Since fiscal year 2009, Congress has added report language to the DHS Appropriations bill requiring that ICE terminate contracts for any facility that failed two consecutive inspections. Congress has made clear expectations that ICE's system of detention inspections should be meaningful, transparent, and created consequences sufficient to ensure compliance with required standards.
However ICE has shown that 40% of known detention facilities have only had "Organizational Review Self-Assessment" which do not include independent monitoring or review. Further, the remainder detention facilities are subject to annual inspections by ICE's own Enforcement and Removal Operations division. Basically, ICE is reviewing ICE detention centers. Furthermore, ICE notifies each detention center of impending inspections. Even under such circumstances, ICE rarely identifies violations of Congress' standards and rarely imposes corresponding consequences.
Worse yet, a recent review of ICE investigations into deaths in detention centers found that nearly half of the contributing causes were due to medical neglect or the violation of medical standards. Despite this, the same detention centers passed inspection both immediately before and immediately after the death.
Recently, a limited series of unannounced spot inspections of ICE facilities conducted by the DHS's Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") revealed problems with ICE self-inspections. In 5 of 6 facilities inspected by the OIG, the OIG found deficiencies so significant that they "undermine ICE's ability to provide a safe environment for detained individuals."
Furthermore, ICE holds final inspections pending long after the inspection thereby allowing detention centers to continue even after failed inspections. Information from a Freedom of Information Action shows that ICE continues to exploit the loophole of terminating contracts that fail inspection by keeping the inspection report pending for more than 10 months. Currently as of 2017, an additional 10 detention centers have been held pending for more than a year.
Clearly, ICE's policing of itself is not working and immigrants from all over the world are suffering due to ICE's evasion of Congress' mandates.
Congress has also raised concerns about ICE's inconsistent and inadequate contracting practices. ICE neither has a standard template for contracts nor a consistent method for calculation of their needs. ICE has failed to allow the field officers to validate invoices.
Given that a majority of detention facilities are operated by contractors, the basic contracting practice is to have a template. Lack of having templates result in widespread poor practice. 159 detention center contracts do not even have expiration dates. 79% of all facilities never go through a renewal of contract. It is further questioned whether these contractors even receive ICE's oversight.
Immediate oversight of bodies like ICE are immediately required. ICE's bias toward jailing more immigrants for longer periods cause unnecessary deaths.