A renewed surge of illegal southern border crossings has filled federal detention centers and triggered a return to Obama-era catch-and-release policies in Texas.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement office is San Antonio said it is refusing to take any families the Border Patrol apprehends and will soon reject unaccompanied migrants. ICE’s El Paso office told agents it also was at capacity and was refusing family units.
With apprehensions climbing steadily over the summer, ICE says it needs five new detention centers immediately. The agency recently contracted with the GEO Group to build a 1,000-bed facility north of Houston. Price tag: $110 million.
ICE spends more than $2 billion a year on immigrant detention at private jails, which house roughly two-thirds of the detainees. FAIR found that overall detention spending, split among several Homeland Security agencies, runs billions more.
The costs may seem prohibitive, but paying the bills must not be prohibited. The irresponsible alternative of catch-and-release imposes a cost that’s far too dear. The price tag resulting from our failure to enforce our immigration laws now runs $135 billion annually.
While the Trump administration scrambles to secure more bed space, ICE is freeing detainees with notices to appear. Such notices aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, as immigration courts have the highest failure-to-appear rates in the country.
Tyler Houlton, spokesman at the Department of Homeland Security, said the courts jam up the enforcement system and block deportations. “We are severely constrained by litigation, court rulings and debilitating legal loopholes that limit our ability to carry out our mission,” Houlton complained.
Other problems lurk in-house.
“Obama holdovers are still running the show. We’re putting ourselves right back into the same situation we were under the Obama administration,” said Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, which represents deportation officers.
Rigorous immigration enforcement – including incarceration of lawbreakers – isn’t cheap. New immigration judges must be hired and trained to get backlogged courts up to speed. Additional detention facilities will be necessary for at least the immediate future.
The only rational responses to the border surge are the systematic elimination of rewards for entering the U.S. illegally, more apprehensions and detentions – followed by expeditious deportations. Failure to swiftly carry out these responsibilities merely invites more border crashing, ensuring further chaos and still higher costs caused by illegal aliens walking free.