Trump Administration Considers the Expansion of Immigration Detention Centers


The setting up and growth of immigrant detention centers was one of the most controversial parts of former president Barack Obama’s immigration policy.

His successor Donald Trump is considering an expansion of the centers.

In January, The Hill reported Trump’s transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security about the agency’s ability to expand the use of its immigrant detention centers.

The report was originally sourced from Reuters. It said the team requested a large dossier of immigration information including details of the aerial surveillance effort. This program was set up by Obama in 2010. The aerial surveillance was intended to apprehend drug trafficking and illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border. It was later discontinued by Obama.

Reuters reported the requests were made at a meeting on Dec. 5 between immigration officials and the transition team.

Barbed wire fence

The team was also reported to be seeking information about the feasibility of building a border wall.

Trump made the building of a border wall a centerpiece of his election campaign. He said he would make Mexico pays. He later suggested U.S. taxpayers would pay but he would force Mexico to reimburse them.

Mexico has consistently stated it will never finance a wall. Many prominent politicians said they are concerned about the cost.

The United States Has More than 180 Immigrant Detention Centers

The United States has as many as 180 immigrant detention centers, reports NOLO. Texas houses some of these facilities. Typically, they are in rural areas far away from cities.

There are government-run and private centers. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lists 21 of its facilities in Texas.

The centers are controversial.  Typically, families are broken up with men and women being housed separately. Some centers have immigration courts and asylum offices inside their perimeters.

Detention Watch Network says the United States already has the largest immigrant detention center network in the world. It says in 2013, about 441,000 people were detained in a “sprawling system.”

ICE is required to maintain at least 34,000 detention beds at any one time. It relies on a network of county jails and private facilities, states Detention Watch Network.

The network’s Expose and Close report in 2012 listed alleged poor conditions at many of these facilities including inadequate access to medical care and legal counsel.

The controversy over indefinite detention in these facilities was challenged in the case of Jennings v. Rodriguez in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. The case concerned mandatory bond hearings for immigrants facing deportation hearings.

As well as looking at data on immigration detention centers, Trump’s transition team demanded all executive orders and directives sent to immigration officials by the Obama administration.

On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to deport every undocumented immigrant in the country.

He softened his tone in December when he said he would immediately focus deportations on up to 3 million illegal immigrants with criminal records.

His timetable would necessitate an expansion of immigrant detention facilities in the United States.

This is a time of extreme uncertainty for undocumented immigrants. If you are facing detention and deportation, we can help you. Call our Austin immigration lawyers at  (512) 399-2311.

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