A certain amount of immigrant detainees are to kept on a daily basis according to a policy known as the “detention bed mandate.”
NPR reports that the little-known mandate calls for filling 34,000 beds in some 250 facilities across the country, per day, with immigrant detainees. The detention bed mandate began in 2009 and is just part of the massive increase in enforcement-only immigration policies over the last two decades.
One of the Department of Homeland Security’s detention centers is located in Florence, Ariz., and NPR noted that each day a person was in detention cost taxpayers at least $120 and that if you add up all the nation's detention centers, that totals more than $2 billion a year.
The Las Vegas Sun notes that with an average detainee population of more than 200 per day, the Henderson Detention Center has been the primary facility in Nevada for housing federally detained immigrants since early 2011, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Immigrants in detention range from those with no criminal history to those who are violent criminals. When NPR went to the facility in Florence, nearly two-thirds of the 400 detainees had no known criminal record.
“I work and I pay taxes,” Martin Martinez, an immigrant from El Salvador who entered the United States illegally in 2006, told the Las Vegas Sun. “I care for my family. Then, when I start to try to legalize my status, I’m detained. So I’m not working, and meanwhile the government is paying to lock me up. Now, if they deport me, who will take care of my wife and son, who are U.S. citizens? They’ll be public charges. It makes no sense.”
Immigrant advocates are reportedly calling for a halt to deportations and alternatives to detention that are less costly and more humane.