The amount of immigrants being held in US detention centers has fallen to its lowest number in almost ten years, potentially signaling a rethink of the federal mandate often referred to as the ‘bed quota’. Detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement can be anything from county jails to separate prison-style facilities that hold immigrants who do not have citizenship for a number of reasons, such as their legal status or committing a criminal offense.
High-ranking Department of Homeland Security officials and certain members of Congress have pointed out that a federal law that mandates as many as 34,000 detention beds all over the United States is in fact a quota that forces ICE to ensure that 34,000 individuals are locked up on a daily basis. The latest figures from the federal government show, however, that the average detainee population on an everyday basis has fallen to just 26,373 in the first five fiscal months of 2015 from last year’s average of 33,000. The number has always been above 30,000 since 2007 – until now.
The decrease seems to finally reverse the trend that saw the amount of immigrants being held in detention growing and is a reflection of changes to federal and state policies and a possible reinterpretation of the ‘34,000 beds’ law by officials. The National Immigration Justice Center’s director of policy, Royce Murray, says that he sees the fall in immigration detainees as a very positive sign indeed.