Whether you are actively involved in immigration reform issues or even if you just glance at an online news source every once in a while, you have undoubtedly heard about a variety of immigration matters and concerns.
Add to this the fact that you likely have ties to Arizona and because the House has less and less time to make a decision on immigration reform this year. One of the most recent immigration issues that has been making headlines lately is that of the policy known as Detention Bed Mandates.
Here are the details: back in 2009, Congress implemented a policy that required facilities that house immigration detainees to fill a particular amount of beds per day in the facility. In total, there are required to be 34,000 immigration detainees per day in the approximately 250 facilities located throughout the country.
One such facility is located in Florence, Arizona. This facility houses immigrant detainees who are awaiting court action. These individuals are sometimes forced to wait in the facility for years until a decision is made.
While many may be able to gloss over the issue as another form of law enforcement, the cost to the community is unavoidable. It is estimated that it costs more than $120 per day per detainee in the Florence detention center. If you take a moment to add up all the detainees in all the facilities, the cost is over $2 billion per year.
Advocates for immigration reform argue that this bed mandate does not allow for law enforcement to effectively prioritize their arrests and prosecutions of immigrants.
Ideally, law enforcement should be focusing its attention and resources on violations and crimes that deal with potentially dangerous or threatening situations. This mandate makes that goal even harder to reach. With an arbitrarily set number imposed by the federal government, the focus on severe crimes gets lost in the shuffle.
Another argument advanced by immigration advocates is the fact that no other law enforcement agency must abide by this type of regulation. Meanwhile, Congress claims that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) must follow such a mandate in order to ensure the agency is working towards arresting and deporting the millions of individuals that are in the United States illegally.
However, there are less costly alternatives that have been repeatedly introduced in order to ensure immigration violations are prosecuted while at the same time saving taxpayer money. For example, devices that use GPS technology to track and locate offenders are available for use by government agencies. Another answer to the problem may be something as simple as requiring regular check-ins with ICE personnel.
GPS devices and check-ins are estimated to cost less than $10 per day - a far cry from the $120 per day to house a detainee at the Florence detention center. Of course, these alternatives are not appropriate for each and every offender and detention centers will always be in business. But, these alternatives will allow for the opportunity for law enforcement to utilize its discretion in choosing which offenders to house in detention centers and which will be granted a different alternative.
While the country anxiously awaits any type of decision on immigration reform to be made, concerns related to immigration policies and procedures continue to dominate local news and continue to impact our communities here in Arizona.