Center for American Progress

RELEASE: With Proposed Rule, DHS Is Attempting to Pursue Maximum Family Detention With Minimal Oversight, Costing as Much as $12.9 Billion, new CAP study finds
Press Release

RELEASE: With Proposed Rule, DHS Is Attempting to Pursue Maximum Family Detention With Minimal Oversight, Costing as Much as $12.9 Billion, new CAP study finds

Washington, D.C. — According to a new CAP analysis, the proposed Flores rule would cost the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) more than $2 billion at a minimum and as much as $12.9 billion over a decade, imposing minimum annualized costs of at least $201 million and as much as $1.3 billion.

This means that, even under the most conservative estimate, the proposed rule would far exceed the $100 million threshold by which a regulation would be considered economically significant and, as such, subject to more scrutiny and analysis. The Trump administration declined to estimate the potential costs of the proposal even though it is required under a long-standing executive order.

The proposed rule would provide the Trump administration with a way to circumvent the Flores settlement’s protection, as interpreted by the courts, against holding children for more than 20 days in unlicensed, secure facilities. It would allow DHS to pursue “alternative licensing”—whereby the department finds its own auditors and sets its own standards—paving the way for DHS to detain a much greater number of families in its family residential centers (FRCs) for far longer than is currently allowed.

“The administration’s proposed rule says as little about the astronomical costs of incarcerating more children for longer periods of time as it does about the ample research demonstrating the harmful effect of such detention,” said Philip E. Wolgin, managing director for the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress and author of the analysis. “The administration has the necessary data to estimate its costs under the proposed rule but is instead trying to ram through a massive change that would be extremely costly and detrimental to the health and well-being of children and families. This rule contradicts the very spirit of the Flores settlement: Put simply, children should not be locked up, and DHS should not be allowed to grant itself new authority to certify conditions for the protection of children in its own facilities.”

The administration’s argument that getting rid of Flores would deter family migration is wrong. A recent CAP analysis of data on the monthly number of apprehensions of families at the southwest border—which takes time trends into account—shows that there was no significant increase in family apprehensions after the 2015 decision.

The cost estimates are based on the government’s own data. First, the author considers the annual costs from the additional detention beds that would be necessary to incarcerate more families together if DHS were able to get around the 20-day limit for holding children in secure, unlicensed facilities. Second, the author considers one-time start-up costs for DHS to acquire additional FRCs to incarcerate these children and parents for longer under the rule.

And while the administration has not provided enough information to calculate the costs to the Department of Health and Human Services, that is not an excuse for failing to run the numbers on its internal data and come up with a cost estimate, as it is required to do.

Click here to read: “The High Costs of the Proposed Flores Regulation” by Philip E. Wolgin

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Rafael J. Medina at [email protected] or 202.478.5313.