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Immigration Detention Bed Quota Timeline

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention system costs taxpayers more than $2 billion each year. Since 2009, congressional appropriations laws have included language on immigration detention beds that is known as the detention bed quota. No other law enforcement agency is subject to a real or perceived quota for its detainees.

Media coverage family separation policy

After causing undo chaos by forcibly separating families at the U.S./Mexico border the Trump Administration continued down its path of neglect. Some families were denied asylum while others were deemed ineligible, and still others are locked up in detention and prosecuted as part of the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy. The victims of this administration's inhumane policies are still reeling from their experience. NIJC staff and clients spoke to local and national media outlets.  

Episcopal News Service: Episcopalians gather in public witness outside immigrant detention center (7/8/18)

Human Right’s First: DHS Secretary Nielsen Meets with Immigration and Human Rights Groups for First Time, Reiterates Trump Administration’s Misinformation and Sidesteps Family Immigration Crisis (7/9/18)

The New York Times: Migrant Families Who Enter at Legal Ports Are Rarely Separated, Customs Officials Say (7/9/18)

The Washington Post: More than 50 separated children to be reunited with parents Tuesday (7/9/18)

Vice News: This family was reunited Tuesday, but dozens of young children are still waiting as Trump’s deadline passes (7/10/18)

Sierra Sun Times: U.S. Senators Harris, Merkley, Cortez Masto Introduce Bill to Reunify and Protect Immigrant Families (7/18/18)

WTTW Chicago Tonight: As Deadline Approaches, Attorneys Offer Insight on Immigrant Family Reunification (7/19/18)

The New Yorker: The Government Has Decided That Hundreds of Immigrant Parents Are Ineligible to Be Reunited with Their Kids. Who Are They? (7/26/18)

WGN Radio: National Immigrant Justice Center Associate Director Lisa Koop: Separation of migrant families is a crisis the government manufactured (7/26/18)

The Cut: Why Some Immigrant Parents Aren’t Eligible to Be Reunited With Their Children (7/27/18)

The Nation: The US Deported 468 Parents—but Kept Their Children (7/31/18)

Vice News: The Government Isn't Doing Anything to Reunite This Family It Broke Apart (8/6/18)

#DefundHate Coalition Slams House Committee For Voting to Tear More Families Apart

The coalition, made up of immigrant, civil rights, faith, LGBTQ, legal services and other organizations demand Congress reduce funding for detentions, deportations and the border wall.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee voted on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Fiscal Year 2019 Bill.

The bill would give DHS $5 billion for a harmful, unnecessary border wall, 370 CBP officers, 400 NEW ICE personnel to continue arresting and jailing families within the United States, funds for the incarceration of 44,000 immigrants and the expansion of detention camps.

The committee voted along party lines, with all Democrats voting against the bill and Republicans voting to tear more families apart, cage children and put parents behind bars, continue to raid our homes and workplaces to deport immigrants across the country.

Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream:
“The House Republicans who voted for this budget are siding with agencies that terrorize immigrant families, separate children from their parents and keep them in cages. You cannot say you want to protect immigrants from Trump’s inhumane policies, while handing DHS a multi-billion dollar check to escalate mass deportations. We need leaders who will demand these agencies are defunded while communities of color in our country continue to suffer.”

John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC:
"It is unconscionable for Congress to spend more money on immigration agents and jails for traumatized families. Congress must provide a check on the morally bankrupt actions taken by this administration, not vote to bolster their actions.”  

Isabel J. Sanchez, National Policy Advocate of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights - CHIRLA:
"Congressional Members who voted for the DHS fiscal year 2019 bill should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of allocating more funds to fuel the inhumane enforcement machine --which is clearly flawed and continues to prey on our immigrant communities-- Congress should focus on conducting oversight and accountability of DHS.  While the dollar-spewing spigot keeps filling the coffers of this rogue Department, the separation of families and the affront to our national values will not stop."

Vicki B. Gaubeca, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition:
"The House Appropriations Committee kowtowed to Trump's deportation force and passed a homeland security spending bill that would continue the traumatic separation of children from their families and waste $5 billion on 200 new miles of a harmful border wall. The committee even refused to re-allocate the costs of one mile of border wall to support firefighters.  Our communities need revitalization, not further border militarization."

Richard Morales, Policy and Program Director for LA RED/Faith In Action:
"Congress must stop turning a blind eye to the roguish behavior of the immigration enforcement agencies and restore order. Lawmakers are well aware of the failures of the administration's policies and agencies’ mismanagement, not the least of which is the family separations at the border and in the interior. Now is the time for Congress to say 'No,’ to Trump's wasteful border wall; negligent use of taxpayer money to essentially bribe local government officials, such as sheriffs, to cooperate with ICE detentions; and other tools Trump is using to institutionalize his violence against immigrant communities.”

Heidi Altman, Director of Policy for the National Immigrant Justice Center:
“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee squandered its opportunity to hold ICE and CBP accountable for fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible actions that terrorize families and American communities. Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an incarceration and deportation system that routinely operates outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, laws, fundamental human right principles, and basic morality. Congress must cut funding for immigration detention and enforcement.”


The #DefundHate campaign, composed of organizations representing directly impacted communities, faith leaders, and civil rights and immigrant rights advocates, is committed to divestment from agencies that tear apart our families and terrorize our communities. For too long, our representatives have said they care about our communities while simultaneously funding aggressive immigration enforcement and deadly immigration jails. They must be held accountable to keep their promises and stand with the immigrant community. We call on our members of Congress to say no and vote against wasting taxpayer dollars on an abusive and deadly immigration enforcement system. We want our tax dollars used to strengthen our families and communities by investing in education, housing, nutrition and health care programs that provide opportunity and increase well-being.

Trump Administration Blows Past Second Court-Ordered Family Reunification Deadline; Americans and Congress Must Demand Accountability

With the final deadline only hours away for the Trump administration to reunite 2,500 children with the parents who were taken from them at the border, hundreds of children remain stranded alone in the United States. At least 463 parents have been deported without their children, under traumatic circumstances that are inherently coercive. More than 900 others remain locked up in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration prisons because the administration has deemed them “ineligible” to reunite with their children.

“Congress must not be fooled by the administration’s claims to have met—or come anywhere near meeting—today’s deadlines,” said National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “Already, we know of hundreds of parents who have been deported or remain in DHS custody; this administration is terminating parental rights without even a nod to due process. Rather than resolving the chaos it created when it chose to prosecute asylum seekers and take their children at our border, this administration continues to ignore the federal court order and violate U.S. and human rights laws.”

As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to hear testimony on July 31 regarding the family separation crisis, NIJC calls on members of Congress to:

  1. Demand that DHS provide all parents in the Ms. L v. ICE federal class action lawsuit who have been deported the opportunity to return to the United States via humanitarian parole to pursue reunification and reopen their removal proceedings.
  2. Require that ALL parents and children be reunified unless evidence exists that would be sufficient for a termination or disruption of parental rights in a state court proceeding, and with an accompanying and independent best-interests analysis of the child.

NIJC represents many parents and children who were torn from each other as part of the administration’s family separation policy. As of noon today, among the families represented by NIJC:

  • 57 children over age five who were in Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody have been transferred or released for reunification. For children who were transferred, DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not confirmed whether their reunification resulted in release or ongoing family detention. NIJC represents about 12 separated children over age five still in ORR custody awaiting release or reunification.
  • Two children under the age of five remain in ORR custody two weeks after the date the federal court had ordered them released, because ICE has deemed their parents “ineligible” for reunification. In both of these cases, ICE has failed to provide evidence to substantiate its refusal to reunify the families.
  • Two children under the age of five remain in ORR custody after ICE deported their parents.
  • Two parents are in the process of being reunified, after spending nearly two months in an ICE prison in California. A third parent who was held at the same prison was previously released on bond and has reunited with her child.

NIJC is concerned about the chaotic nature of the reunification process these families have endured:

  • In one case, a child was transferred by plane to a facility to be reunified with a parent who was, in fact, detained in a different facility. This same type of mistaken transfer nearly happened in at least three other cases, and was only avoided by NIJC attorneys who caught the errors and informed government officials.
  • ICE has failed to provide adequate notice to attorneys regarding the transfers and ultimate destinations for children and parents. Once a child is transferred to an ICE facility for reunification, attorneys do not receive further notice of the reunification plan. For nearly a week after two parent clients were transferred from a California ICE prison to the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas, they were unable to contact NIJC lawyers by phone, and relied on volunteer lawyers visiting the prison to communicate messages about their children’s wellbeing and post-reunification arrangements.

ACT NOW: Tell Congress to #DefundHate and stop using taxpayer dollars to keep parents from their children.

NIJC Calls on Congress to Cut Funds for Immigration Detention and Deportations in DHS’s FY 2019 Budget

The House Appropriations Committee this week is scheduled to mark up and vote on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for fiscal year 2019, even as thousands of parents whose children were taken by CBP remain in ICE prisons and it becomes increasingly clear that the Trump administration never had a plan to reunite their families.

The DHS budget bill provides $51.4 billion in discretionary funding, a massive increase for an agency whose enforcement budget has already more than doubled since its inception in 2003.

“Members of Congress must vote no on this bill and, just as importantly, hold DHS accountable for its fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible actions by cutting funds for immigration detention and enforcement,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “American taxpayers should not be forced to pay for an incarceration and deportation system that routinely operates outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, laws, fundamental human right principles, and basic morality.”

The bill going to mark up on Wednesday, among other things, provides: $5 billion for an unnecessary and harmful border wall; 400 new ICE officers and 375 new CBP officers; and the expansion of immigration detention to jail approximately 44,000 people daily, totalling nearly 375,000 immigrants jailed on a yearly basis.

As House appropriators meet to debate the DHS funding bill:

Enough is enough. NIJC calls on Congress to VOTE NO on the FY19 House Appropriations DHS spending bill.

ACT NOW: Tell your elected officials to hold DHS accountable for its ongoing rights abuses through significant cuts to its detention and enforcement budget.

DACA Renewal Clinic 08/13/2018

During this free legal clinic, private attorneys from Chicago's top law firms will join with the National Immigrant Justice Center to complete and file applications for qualified individuals to RENEW their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Registration must be completed as soon as possible.  For more information about updates to the DACA program, refer to our community advisory

DHS Secretary Nielsen Meets with Immigration and Human Rights Groups for First Time, Reiterates Trump Administration’s Misinformation and Sidesteps Family Immigration Crisis

Washington D.C. - Today, leaders of several immigrant and human rights organizations were invited for the first time under the Trump administration to meet with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

In the midst of an ongoing crisis, where the administration has ripped more than 4,000 children from their parents at the southern border, advocates hoped to have a conversation focusing on family separation and a fair and humane process for families seeking protection.

The secretary instead made clear her focus is on preventing people from seeking protection in the United States. She refused to discuss the ongoing family separation crisis or answer any questions related to it, citing ongoing litigation. She also noted this meeting prefaced others she is to have with North American, Central American, and Colombian leaders about long-term regional solutions.

Advocates presented the following steps which the secretary must immediately take to address the crisis of the administration’s own making:

  • End the “zero tolerance” policy and stop referring asylum seekers for criminal prosecutions that violate treaty prohibitions on penalties for illegal entry or presence, as well as all referrals to streamline prosecutions that violate due process.
  • Immediately reunify all separated families (including those families separated prior to the announcement of the zero tolerance policy) through release on recognizance, parole, bond, or use of alternatives to detention.
    • Identify all parents who were or are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, explain their right to be reunified with their child, and arrange for reunification. These reunification efforts must include parents who have been removed from the United States, those still in detention, and those who have been released.
  • Reduce the detention population via the use of community-based alternatives to detention, including reinstatement of the Family Case Management Program under the operation of a non-profit entity, as well as the use of parole, custody hearing, and other legal release assessment processes.
  • Abandon efforts to expand adult and family detention, including the creation of new tent cities and/or detention camps established on Department of Defense facilities.
  • Immediately ensure that meaningful access to counsel is guaranteed at all ICE facilities.
  • Ensure that the right to seek asylum—protected by international and domestic law—is assured for those arriving on the southern border by ending the practice of turning back asylum seekers or employing “metering” or other strategies that discourage asylum claims and leave adults and families stranded or waiting in unsafe conditions on the Mexico side of the border.
  • Stop efforts to deny protection to refugees through attempts to rewrite U.S. asylum law, policies, and adjudicatory processes in ways that violate U.S. law and treaty obligations.
  • Increase—rather than cut—support for rule of law and other initiatives to reduce violence and persecution in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, as well as support for UNHCR efforts to strengthen protection in other countries in the region.

Attendees of the meeting released the following quotes:

Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center:

“This administration is locking up asylum seekers and separating families, abusive practices that strip individuals of the legal protections afforded to them under international and domestic law. These abuses must stop. Today we attempted to engage the secretary to take seriously the harm this administration has caused thousands of families and were met with the same misinformation it has expressed since it first created this crisis. We will continue to demand that our government respect the basic human rights of all migrants, and we will demand accountability when those rights are denied.”

Beth Werlin, executive director, American Immigration Council:

“DHS is attacking families and criminalizing asylum seekers, but the secretary doesn’t seem to want to talk about that. The administration’s approach to families seeking protection in the United States is cruel and sometimes unlawful and deprives asylum seekers a fair chance to present their claims. DHS has humane options to choose from when it comes to families seeking refuge, and the agency is shirking its responsibilities.”

Eleanor Acer, senior director, Refugee Protection, Human Rights First:

“The disastrous family separation policy should be a wake-up call to this administration. Sending children and families to detention facilities for even longer is another fiasco in the making. Jails, cages, criminal prosecutions, and attempts to rewrite law to deny asylum are simply not the way this great country should treat families in search of protection. As DHS well knows, there are other tested and much less costly migration management strategies that have proven effective in supporting appearance.”

Michelle Brané, director, Migrant Rights & Justice, Women’s Refugee Commission:

“The administration has intentionally violated human rights on our very shores. The chaos and lifelong damage to separated families imposed by U.S. authorities demonstrates either intentionally cruel violations of law, extreme incompetence, or both. The American people and a court order have made clear that this must stop immediately. Yet the administration is dragging its feet on reunifying families and avoiding the most logical, humane, and efficient solutions—including the return of a family case management program that was 100 percent effective in ensuring compliance with our laws. Locking the front door to a burning house only drives people to jump out windows and into further danger. Prosecuting asylum seekers, detaining or separating families, and eliminating child protection standards violates our laws and is not a solution. The administration must end this attack on families and asylum seekers immediately. Humane, reasonable approaches exist.”

Trump Administration's Failure to Re-Designate Temporary Status For Yemenis Will Force Many Back into Raging Civil War

CHICAGO – The National Immigrant Justice Center condemns the Trump administration’s failure to re-designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), despite its decision to extend TPS for the approximately 1,200 Yemenis who currently have the protection. This failure to re-designate forces Yemenis who fled violence and arrived in the United States after the January 2017 deadline to face deportation back to civil war, disease, and famine.

The administration has already ended TPS for 98 percent of current TPS recipients. This announcement—on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the shameful ban on five majority-Muslim countries including Yemen—is further evidence of the administration's needless and racially motivated attack on all immigrants.

Yemen has suffered three years of civil war, in which the United States is involved; millions are without access to clean drinking water, which has caused a cholera outbreak; and a shortage of basic necessities including food has led to famine. According to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the situation in Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 40,000 casualties as of March 2018.

The Obama administration granted temporary protected status to Yemenis in September 2015, six months after Yemen’s civil war began. Three years later the war continues and Yemenis are still suffering.

“To deny Temporary Protected Status to people fleeing a raging civil war, hunger, and disease, reveals this administration’s true heartlessness and irresponsibility,” said National Immigrant Justice Center Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy, “This decision adds to the Trump administration’s terrible track record of stripping individuals’ legal status and destroying countless families and communities. If we are truly a country of compassion and a beacon of hope for those seeking safety, we should prove it.”

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