Democrats are looking to push Congress into preventing the Trump administration from incarcerating more undocumented immigrants by placing a moratorium on the expansion or construction of immigration detention facilities. On Tuesday, Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapai were expected to file bills to that effect, as well as asking for $45 million to improve the government’s oversight of existing immigrant prisons, which have faced accusations of dangerous conditions resulting in the death of over 150 inmates over the last 15 years.
Harris blames successive presidential administrations for an ever-expanding number of immigration prisons, which are both publicly and privately operated. The number of immigration beds in the US has risen from less than 7,000 in 1994 to almost 40,000 in 2018.
Harris claims that the rapid expansion has resulted in immigrants becoming vulnerable to inadequately monitored conditions that are often inhumane and says the problem would be further exacerbated with the addition of more bed space, calling the reported cases of sexual abuse, no legal counsel, medical negligence and sometimes even death ‘unconscionable’. Harris says the time has come to stop these facilities from expanding further and diverting their resources into addressing genuine threats to public safety.
The bill will face a tough reception in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, with Republican leaders reluctant to support any immigration bill that contradicts the effort to get tough with illegal immigration from President Donald Trump.