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ICE's Bed Mandate:  Who Benefits?

During the last years, it was observed that illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexican border have diminished greatly.  The Administration’s DACA policy has saved hundreds of thousands of young people from possible deportation.  The GOP is pressing for deep cuts in the federal budget. So why is ICE locking up more persons than ever before, and spending much more money than in previous years? The simple answer is the bed mandate.


According to Carl Shusterman, a former INS trial lawyer, back in 2009, the late Senator Robert Byrd (D-VA) amended a DHS appropriations bill to require ICE to keep a minimum of 33,400 persons locked up at all times.  ICE thus became the only agency in the entire federal government to have a minimum quota on the number of people that they must keep in jail.  Congress later raised the bed mandate to 34,000. Since 2005, the number of persons in ICE detention has risen 72%, and this costs the taxpayers $2 billion annually.  Even former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano calls the bed mandate artificial and unnecessary.  Instead of releasing low-risk persons with ankle bracelets, ICE is forced to spend $120 per prisoner per day.

Ironically, the GOP has blocked efforts to repeal the bed mandate even though it smacks government waste and inefficiency. Why GOP has blocked this effort?  The answer is that ICE's Bed Mandate is wealthiness that benefits private companies. 

Private companies, the Corrections Corporation, and Geo Group imprison over 60% of ICE detainees.  The stock of these two publicly traded companies has roughly doubled over the past 3 years.  In messages issued in 2012, an ICE administrator ordered employees to increase arrests in order to comply with the bed mandate.  These days, the former ICE administrator is, guess what, an executive for one of the companies mentioned above.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill passed by the Senate last June would give ICE more discretion in determining whom to imprison and whom to release.  However, according to Shusterman, "if you own stock in the companies listed above, don’t sell your shares just yet. GOP Senators inserted an amendment into the CIR bill which would compel ICE to triple arrests in the Southwest."  Over 10 years, this would probably increase the cost of incarcerating inmates by over $1.5 billion. It seems to be great news for stockholders, however, for taxpayers, it’s just another example of government waste.

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