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About immigration detention quotas

Did you know that that federal policy requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain a certain number of spaces in immigration detention centers every single day? You may have heard of these spaces referred to as “detention quotas” or “bed quotas.”  

These arbitrary mandates drive detentions that separate families, undermine the right to freedom, and, in some locations, subject people to deplorable confinement conditions that violate human rights standards.

Sixty-two percent of immigration detention centers are owned and/or operated by for-profit prison corporations.  Not surprisingly, locking up immigrants has become big business for companies like Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), which received $208 million in U.S. government contracts to detain immigrants in 2012. CCA and other companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying to protect their profits–-even when the result is poor public policy.  

Detention quotas are inhumane and erode the dignity of immigrants. And they must end.

There are two types of detention quotas. The first is established by Congress (what we’ll call the “federal detention quota”) and the other is created by contract between ICE and for-profit companies providing detention services (we’ll refer to these as a “site-specific quotas”).

Federal detention quota

The federal detention quota first appeared in the FY2010 federal budget for ICE, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s domestic immigration enforcement agency. Since that time, a quota has been in every presidential proposed budget to Congress and DHS Appropriations Act. 

Currently the federal detention quota requires that ICE make available 34,000 immigration detention beds every day

Site-specific quotas

Site-specific quotas are distinct from the federal detention quota in two ways:

  1. These quotas are specific to a particular detention facility operated by private prison corporations through a contract with the U.S. government’s ICE agency.
  2. These quotas are secured in contracts between the private prison corporation and ICE (not through the federal budget process in Congress, unlike the federal quota).

 Site-specific quotas, or “guaranteed minimums” as they’re called in contracts between ICE and corporations, require that ICE pay for a certain number of detention slots at the facility, regardless of the number of immigrants actually held.

Recently a handful of contracts between ICE and private entities were released that show guaranteed minimums in specific facilities.  If you live in or near any of these communities, your advocacy to end these quotas is particularly needed:   

  • Batavia, NY
  • Aurora, CO
  • El Paso, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Newark, NJ
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Pearsall, TX
  • San Diego/Otay Mesa, CA
  • Seattle, WA   

 Please encourage your congressperson to support the prohibition of these guaranteed minimums by cosponsoring the Protecting Taxpayers and Communities from Local Detention Quotas Act (HR 2808).

Top 5 things to know about federal immigration and site specific detention quotas

Currently the federal detention quota requires that ICE make available 34,000 immigration detention beds every day. This is just one of the many important facts you should familiarize yourself with before visitng your representative.