US Considering Release of Detained Migrants

Last week, a bipartisan border bill aimed at funding immigration detentions faced collapse due to Republican opposition. Since 2021, more than 6.3 million migrants have entered the US illegally. Currently, ICE is holding approximately 38,000 migrants in long-term detention facilities.

The failed bipartisan border bill would have allocated $7.6 billion for ICE, including an additional $3.2 billion for detention capacity, allowing for several thousand more beds for detainees. According to reports from the Washington Post, ICE officials responded to the bill’s collapse by circulating an internal proposal to reduce costs, which includes cutting detentions from 38,000 to 22,000.

While some migrants would be deported to their home countries under this proposal, many would be released into the US. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees ICE, noted that Congress has consistently underfunded efforts to secure the border.

The spokesperson emphasized that the rejection of the border bill jeopardizes DHS’s current removal operations and exacerbates the strain on their already stretched workforce. Without adequate funding for Customs and Border Patrol, ICE, and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the department may need to reallocate or draw resources from other initiatives.

A budget shortfall would also hamper ICE’s ability to deport migrants, potentially leading to various operational changes within DHS, as highlighted by the spokesperson. However, any such measures are likely to face significant criticism from Republicans, who advocate for stricter enforcement and fewer migrants being released into the US to await immigration court proceedings.

The move comes after a shortage of budget in ICE to deport Immigrants. (Image: The Wall Street Journal)

The issue of the border has become highly contentious in the US. According to a January poll conducted by CBS, nearly half of Americans perceive the situation at the border as a crisis, with 63% favoring tougher policies.

Since President Joe Biden took office, more migrants have been apprehended while crossing the border illegally compared to the administrations of Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Out of the over 6.3 million total migrants, approximately 2.4 million have been permitted entry into the US, primarily to await decisions from immigration courts.

Every month, migrant detentions rose to an all-time high of over 302,000 in December 2023 but fell by 50% to about 124,000 in January.

CBP officials have attributed the drastic decline to “seasonal trends, as well as enhanced enforcement efforts”.

Experts have also credited increased enforcement by the Mexican government for the drop in migrant “encounters” at the border in the wake of a December meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

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