Republicans Bedcheck an Immigration Detention Program

May 4, 2015
CQ Roll Call

A House lawmaker says he expects the Obama administration to find enough illegal immigrants to fill the detention beds Congress funds — or face budgetary consequences.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, says the administration is confused in its interpretation of  a law (PL 114-4) that funds 34,000 beds for those detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Culberson says the agency is required to fill the beds, not just have them on hand.

If ICE keeps falling short of the quota, Congress will use its power of the purse to push changes, he told CQ RollCall in an interview.

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Meanwhile, legal advocacy groups are making the case that immigrants shouldn't be imprisoned for minor civil infractions. They're protesting private prison companies they say lobby for policies that over-criminalize immigrants.

Grassroots Leadership, a social justice group that opposes for-profit incarceration, says ICE's two largest private prison contractors – Geo Group Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America – were major supporters of increases to the detention bed quota, which was first written into law in 2010.

Since then, the two companies have increased their share in the immigration detention system, now operating eight of the 10 largest detention centers and 72 percent of the privately contracted ICE beds, according to a recent report by Grassroots Leadership.