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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Despite Record Spending, Congress Failed to Fund Detention Space to Hold Captured Illegals From Terror-Sponsoring Countries

By Penny Starr,( - Even as Congress increased overall federal spending from a then-record ;$2.6 trillion in fiscal 2006 to $3.6 trillion in fiscal 2010, it only appropriated enough funds for the Department of Homeland Security to provide a fraction of the additional 40,000 detention spaces for illegal aliens that had been authorized by an immigration law approved in 2004.

Because it lacked adequate detention space, DHS says it was forced over the last three years to release hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens it had caught and were being processed for deportation. Among these, as recently reported, were 481 illegal aliens from state sponsors of terror and other "countries of interest" that DHS caught and released in fiscal years 2007-2009 and who are now fugitives whose wherabouts is unknown.

These 481 caught-and-released fugitive illegal aliens from terror sponsors and "countries of interest" include 97 citizens of Nigeria, the country from which Northwest Flight 253 hijacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab hailed. They also include 8 citizens of Yemen, the country where Abdulmutallab was recruited by al Qaeda, as well as 87 Pakistanis, 34 Lebanese, 29 Iranians, 22 Somalians, 14 Sudanese, 13 Syrians, 8 Algerians, 4 Afghans, and 2 Saudia Arabians.

Syria, Iran and Sudan (along with Cuba) are designated by the U.S. State Department as sponsors of terrorism. Nationals of the other countries were singled out by DHS for enhanced security scrutiny when boarding U.S.-bound flights after the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Flight 253.

Yet in recent years when nationals of these countries were found to be illegally in the United States, they were not automatically detained while undergoing the deportation process--allowing some of them to become fugitives.

Congress has been uncharacteristically frugal in funding detention spaces for illegal aliens despite a 2004 law that specifically authorized and directed DHS to increase the number of detention beds by 8,000 per year--for a total of 40,000--in the fiscal years from 2006 to 2010. Had the 2004 authorization been followed up with the necessary annual appropriations, it would have increased the number of detention beds available for illegal aliens from roughly 20,000 to 60,000.

Congress, however, did not make all the necessary appropriations.

In 2006, Congress did provide a special appropriation of $3 billion to DHS to enhance border security. This included a provision for increasing the detention beds to 45,000, but those beds were not added. Currently, there are only 33,400 beds available for detaining illegal aliens--and some critics charge not all of those are being used.

As reported earlier by, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of DHS, cited the lack of bed space as the reason it released the 481 illegal aliens in fiscal years 2007-09 from state sponsors of terroris and countries of interest who went on to become fugitives. was able to determine that these aliens became fugitives by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for DHS data on aliens apprehended by DHS in fiscal years 2007-2009.

As ICE spokeswoman Gillian Brigham told “On any given day, the immigration detention system has about 32,000 beds available for people going through immigration proceedings. There are 1.6 million people going through some kind of immigration court proceeding. So you can’t detain everyone.”

“We have to prioritize who we put in detention,” she said.

Had the 40,000 additional detention beds authorized by the 2004 law been funded by the Congresses in power since 2006, the number of beds available would have risen from 20,800 in 2006 to 60,800 this year. Currently, at peak capacity, DHS now has 33,400 available.

Furthermore, critics charge that ICE is not making sufficient use of those 33,400 beds.

In his opening statement at a Mar. 11, 2010 hearing on ICE’s 2011 budget, for example, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), the ranking member on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said DHS is not utilizing its current detention capacity.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton speaks about immigration enforcement at a news conference in Phoenix on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010 as U.S. Marshal David Gonzales (left) and Patrick Cunningham with the U.S. Attorney's Office look on.

“The stats don’t lie,” he said. “From FY08 to FY09, ICE’s non-criminal, administrative arrests during worksite enforcement operations declined by more than 68 percent and trickled down to just 24 administrative arrests in the month of January.  Furthermore, current detention bed space capacity is not being fully utilized.” 

“Out of the 33,400 detention beds ICE is currently funded to use in FY10, only 29,192 beds are filled,” Rogers said.

“What these facts tell me is that ICE is not vigorously enforcing our immigration laws or fully using all the tools at its disposal to deter illegal aliens,” he said.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and a Homeland Security Committee member, told “Illegal immigrants who are not detained are released. So the fact that the Obama administration is not increasing the number of detention beds indicates that they are not serious about enforcing our immigration laws or reducing illegal immigration.”

“Even now, when there are millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, the Obama administration is not even using all of the detention beds available to them,” Smith said.

Repeated requests from to ICE for confirmation of the number, on average, of empty beds in ICE detention spaces was not answered by deadline.

New Breed of Illegals The political battle over securing additional detention space for captured illegal aliens began in earnest following the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed 2,819 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) sponsored the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which authorized the DHS secretary to increase the number of detention beds for illegal aliens by 8,000 annually between fiscal years 2006 and 2010.

In 2006, Democrats became the majority party in Congress, and because the actual funding for the beds was not part of the 2004 authorization law, the 40,000 additional detention spaces that law envisioned never became reality because Congress did not approve the money to pay for them.   Between 2006 and 2010, Congress did incrementally increase the number of beds, but only by 12,600.

Also, at least some of the money allocated by Congress to DHS in 2008 for border security and detention beds (see below) was not spent for the spaces. An amendment to that appropriations bill called for bringing the number of bed-slots up to 45,000--11,600 more than today’s bed count of 33,400.

Over the course of the six years since Collins’ bill became law, ICE’s role in apprehending and deporting illegal aliens has met with mixed reviews.
An employee waits at the front gate of the Stewart Detention Facility, a Corrections Corporation of America immigration facility in Lumpkin, Ga. CCA, the largest contractor for U.S. ICE, reached a preliminary agreement in May, 2010, to soften confinement, free of charge, at nine immigrant facilities covering more than 7,100 beds

An April 2006 report by DHS’ Office of Inspector General revealed that“of the 774,112 illegal aliens apprehended in the past three years, 280,987 (36%) were released largely due to a lack of personnel, bed space, and funding needed to detain illegal aliens while their immigration status is being adjudicated.”
Further, the report said that “historical trends indicate that 62 percent of the aliens released will eventually be issued final orders of removal by the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and later fail to surrender for removal or abscond.”

The same report said that as of Dec. 30, 2005, more than 544,000 aliens that were released had absconded.

Bed Count Down, Despite Funding In July 2007, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) offered an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2008 for $3 billion in emergency spending for border security, including increasing the number detention beds.

“This is an emergency kind of manufactured by Washington,” Graham said. “It is something that should have been done 20 years ago. Now we have taken up immigration in a serious way. We had an extensive debate not long ago, and we were not able to get comprehensive immigration reform. But I think most Americans believe losing operational control of the U.S.-Mexican border is a national security issue of a serious nature, and they applaud our efforts to put money into securing the border between the United States and Mexico.”

“That is exactly what this amendment does,” Graham said. The amendment, which was passed and became part of the law, called for increasing the number of detention beds to 45,000. This, Graham said, would work towards the goal of ending the “catch and release” policy at DHS and ICE.

In 2009, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill that called for building or acquiring of 20 new detention centers around the country to hold illegal aliens. The bill has languished in the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, where it was referred.

Rep. Smith told that the failure to detain illegal aliens once they have been caught puts Americans unnecessarily at risk. “The consequences of this lack of enforcement are serious,” Smith said. “Just two examples: in recent weeks, illegal immigrants killed two Americans: a nun killed by a released illegal immigrant in a DUI accident, and a 14-year-old girl shot during a robbery by a twice-deported illegal immigrant.”

Tags: Arizona, ICE, illegals, crime, detention, illegal aliens, CNS News To share the post, click on "Post Link." Please mention / link to Blogs for Borders. Thanks!


Anonymous Mickey White said...

TN Congressman Marsha Blackburn Votes Poorly

Marsha Blackburn is my Congressman.
See her unconstitutional votes at :

8/23/10, 11:42 PM  

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