Eliminate the Detention Bed Quota

 

“Imagine if Congress mandated that an arbitrary number of jail cells be filled with prisoners—regardless of the crime rate. Authorities would be required to incarcerate people, no matter the circumstances or the affront to human rights. That’s basically the state of immigration detention in the U.S.”

-The Editors of Bloomberg View, September 26, 2013

“In the past five years, Homeland Security officials have jailed record numbers of immigrants, driven by a little-known congressional directive known on Capitol Hill as the “bed mandate.” The policy requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep an average of 34,000 detainees per day in its custody, a quota that has steadily risen since it was established…”

-The Washington Post, October 13, 2013

What is the Bed Quota?

The bed quota requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold an average of 34,000 individuals in detention on a daily basis. This quota has steadily increased since its establishment in 2009. No other law enforcement agency is subject to a statutory quota on the number of individuals to hold in detention.

The bed quota prevents ICE from exercising discretion and expanding more efficient alternatives to detention (ATD) that would allow individuals who pose no risk to public safety to be released back to their families while awaiting immigration court hearings. ATDs cost as little as 70 cents to $17 per day—a fraction of the $159 ICE spends to detain one person per day.   Over the course of a year, immigration detention costs over $2 billion, approximately $5.5 million each day.  Taxpayers could save $1.44 billion each year—a nearly 80 percent decrease in detention spending—if ATDs were more widely used.  Alternatives to detention have received bipartisan support for their cost‐savings from groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations’ Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy, the Heritage Foundation, the Pretrial Justice Institute, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (home to Right on Crime), the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Conference of Chief Justices.

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Congressional Efforts to Eliminate the Quota

  • Jun. 2013: Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Bill Foster (D-IL) introduce an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Appropriations Bill that would have repealed the bed quota. The amendment failed to pass despite support from 189 members of Congress, including eight Republicans. 
  • Sept. 2013: Reps. Deutch and Foster are joined by 63 of their colleagues in sending a letter requesting the Obama administration to remove the bed quota from the administration’s FY 2015 appropriations request.
  • Jan. 2014: Reps. Deutch and Foster introduce another amendment to remove the bed quota from the FY 2014 Appropriations Bill. The amendment ultimately did not receive a vote since appropriations were considered under a closed rule.
  • Feb. 2014: Rep. Foster, Rep. Deutch, and 26 other congressmen write to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting it remove the detention bed mandate from their FY 2015 budget.
  • Apr. 2014OMB responds to the congressional letter stating the administration's opposition to the detention bed quota.
  • May 2014: Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduces the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act of 2014, which seeks to eliminate the bed quota in addition to implementing other immigration detention reforms.
  • Jun. 2014: Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduces an amendment in the Appropriations Committee hearing to eliminate the bed quota. Reps. Mike Honda (D-CA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), and David Valadao (R-CA) join him in supporting the amendment. Rep.Valadao's statement marks the first time a Republican directly opposes the bed quota. Ultimately, Rep. Quigley withdraws the amendment since he knew it would not pass out of committee.
  • Dec. 2014: Reps. Deutch and Foster introduce an amendment to eliminate the bed quota from the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The amendment does not receive a vote since the bill is considered under a closed rule with no amendments allowed.
  • Jan. 2015: Reps. Deutch and Foster introduce an amendment to eliminate the bed quota from the DHS Appropriations Act of 2015 (H.R. 240). Reps. Smith, Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), and Jared Polis (D-CO) also co-sponsor the amendment, which is ultimately rejected. 
  • Mar. 2015: The Congressional Progressive Caucus releases their FY 2016 budget alternative called The People's Budget: A Raise for America. The budget blueprint includes elimination of the bed quota.
  • May 2015: Rep. Smith reintroduces the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act. Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Deutch, Foster, Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), O'Rourke, and Quigley co-sponsor the bill.
  • Jun. 2015: Rep. Deutch introduces the Protecting Taxpayers and Communities from Local Detention Quotas Act (H.R. 2808). The bill seeks to end the practice of including guaranteed bed minimums in immigration detention contracts. Reps. Foster, Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Smith, and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) co-sponsor the bill. 
  • Sept. 2015:
    • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduces the Justice is Not for Sale Act of 2015, which seeks to end the bed quota among other criminal justice and immigration detention reforms. The bill is the first effort in the U.S. Senate to eliminate the bed quota. In addition, Reps. Grijalva, Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduce the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
    • Reps. Smith, Deutch, Foster, Watson Coleman, Castro, and Polis offer an amendment to remove the detention bed quota from the short-term FY 2016 Continuing Resolution. The amendment is ultimately rejected.
  • Mar. 2016: Reps. Deutch and Foster, along with 58 members of Congress, write a letter to the House DHS Appropriations Subcommittee calling for elimination of the bed quota in FY 2017 appropriations.

NIJC is working with the Detention Watch Network on the #EndTheQuota campaign.

Learn More:

Listen to the November 2013 telebriefing "Immigration Detention Bed Mandate 101"

Speakers include: Brittney Nystrom, Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service; Ruthie Epstein, American Civil Liberties Union; Katharina Obser, Human Rights First; Madhu Grewal, Detention Watch Network; Royce Murray, National Immigrant Justice Center (facilitator)

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Resources

**DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson reiterates his interpretation of the bed quota to requrie DHS to maintain--not fill--34,000 beds at 4:21:44. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) agrees with Secretary Johnson's interpretation.**

**Rep. Roybal Allard (D-CA) pushes back against the bed quota at 1:06:50. Go to 1:11:50 for DHS Secretary Johnson's response**

Reports

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NGO Advocacy Letters

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Advocacy from Members of Congress on the Bed Quota

  • Letter from 60 members of Congress to the House DHS Appropriations Subcommittee calling for removal of the bed quota from the FY 2017 budget (Mar. 2016)
  • Op-Ed by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), The Detention Bed Mandate Goes Local (Jun. 2015)
  • Op-Ed by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Jailing Immigrants is Inhumane, Costly, and Unnecessary (Mar. 2015)
  • Letter from 62 members of Congress to the House DHS Appropriations Subcommittee calling for removal of the bed quota from the FY 2016 budget (Mar. 2015)
  • Letter from 54 members of Congress to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) calling for removal of the bed quota from the FY 2016 budget (Jan. 2015)
  • Letter from 79 members of Congress to the DHS Appropriations Subcommittee on the FY 2015 Appropriations Bill (Mar. 2014)
  • Letter from 28 members of Congress to the OMB calling for removal of the bed quota from the FY 2015 budget (Feb. 2014)
  • Letter from 65 members of Congress to the White House demanding the removal of the bed mandate from the FY 2015 budget (Sept. 25, 2013)

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Media

Media coverage of the immigration detention bed quota (Last updated Sept. 2015)

Press Call with Congressmen Bill Foster (D-IL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) on the Bed Quota (April 17, 2014)

Pacifica Radio segment on the detention bed quota

Video of Rep. Foster calling for elimination of the bed quota (Jun. 5, 2013)

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