| WASHINGTON/NEW YORK
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK May 1 Congress has agreed
to fund an additional 5,300 detention beds for illegal
immigrants, the House of Representatives Appropriations
Committee said on Monday, less than half the number requested by
President Donald Trump.
The additional detention space was negotiated by Republican
leaders with Democrats as part of a spending package Congress
will vote on later this week to fund the government through
September, according to two congressional sources familiar with
The new beds will be added despite a sharp decline last
month in apprehensions of people crossing the southern border
with Mexico illegally. Immigration detention centers at the U.S.
border have been operating at below capacity in recent months.
The agreement will increase the number of immigration
detention beds to 39,324 from 34,000 currently, according to a
summary provided by the House Appropriations Committee.
The White House in March requested bringing the total number
of beds up to 45,700, saying the additional capacity was
necessary to achieve the president's goal of "enhancing interior
enforcement efforts and ending 'catch and release' for those
apprehended at the border."
The budget summary did not break out the specific cost of
the additional 5,300 beds, but said they would be included in an
overall $1.5 billion increase in immigration enforcement
The spending also includes more electronic monitoring and
GPS tracking alternatives to detention, as well 100 additional
officers to enforce immigration laws and funding for programs
that increase coordination with local authorities on immigration
A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE), which runs detention facilities, said the agency would
not comment on the contents of the spending bill while the
legislation is pending. The House Appropriations Committee did
not respond to a request for comment.
From April 1-22, an average of 36,235 immigrants were in
detention per day, according to the most recent statistics
provided by ICE.
If border crossings and apprehensions continue to stay low,
the administration could struggle to fill additional detention
beds, unless it increases "arrests of undocumented immigrants in
the interior with no criminal convictions and cuts back on
releases of asylum seekers found to have legitimate claims,"
said Kevin Landy, who served as assistant director at ICE during
the Obama administration.
"ICE is going to be under enormous pressure to fill those
beds" to prove to Congress that the funding was needed, said
Landy, who left his post in January. Democrats raised similar
concerns during budget negotiations, a Congressional aide with
knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters.
Some Republicans as well as Democrats also expressed worries
during the negotiations that the Department of Homeland Security
might redirect money allotted for detention centers to use on
border wall construction if Congress appropriated more money
than needed, the aide said.
In October, the first month of the 2017 fiscal year, 66,710
people were apprehended crossing the U.S.-Mexico border
illegally. Apprehensions have fallen steadily since then.
In March, 16,600 individuals were apprehended, down 64
percent from the year-earlier month, according to statistics
from Customs and Border Patrol.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Julia Edwards
Ainsely in Washington; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in
Washington; Editing by Sue Horton and Leslie Adler)