Beginning in 2009, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, to detain a set number of immigrants each day in an attempt to force the department to increase deportations. Today, this arbitrary congressional quota requires that DHS maintain bed space to jail 34,000 immigrants every day—regardless of DHS’s actual need to detain immigrants and at a cost of more than $2 billion per year. An estimated 70 percent of immigrants in detention facilities fall into the mandatory detention category; this means that 30 percent of the 34,000 immigrants detained each day would be eligible for release if not for the quota. Removing the quota would save taxpayers at least $600 million per year and prevent tens of thousands of people from being unnecessarily imprisoned.
As discussed in previous Center for American Progress reports, LGBT immigrants in detention facilities are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment. The bed quota restricts Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, or ICE’s, ability to make individualized custody determinations, such as release on bond or placement in less restrictive and less costly alternatives to detention, that take into account the particular vulnerabilities of LGBT immigrants. The result is that LGBT immigrants—including those fleeing danger to seek asylum—are placed in jails where they are at risk of sexual and physical abuse, simply so ICE can meet this arbitrary quota.
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