Report: Cut detention costs by 82 percent with alternatives for non-violent immigrants

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If immigration detention were limited to violent criminals, the cost of detention would decrease by 82 percent, a National Immigration Forum report says.

It currently costs $164 per day to detain an immigrant, while alternatives cost 30 cents to $14 per day, says the report (.pdf), released Aug. 21.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Alternatives to Detention program, through which ICE supervises participants or monitors them electronically, had 23,289 individuals enrolled as of June 8. Meanwhile, ICE detained 363,064 individuals in fiscal 2010, according to the Homeland Security Department's most recent available statistics (.pdf) on detention.

Alternative detention is not only cheaper--it also works, the report says. The Alternatives to Detention program targeted a 58 percent rate of of appearance at immigration hearings, but the actual rate was 93.8 percent in fiscal 2010.

The report also questions the wisdom behind a controversial Karnes, Texas detention facility that opened in March 2012. But while some said the facility pampers detainees with a college-like environment, the report instead asks whether it makes sense to detain such low-risk individuals in the first place.

At the facility, ICE pays $68.75 per day per detainee for the first 480 detainees and $56.48 for the next 120 detainees, according to the agency's December 2010 agreement (.pdf) for detention services there.

That amounts to about $14.5 million per year if the facility were to house 600 detainees each day.

For more:
- download the report, "The Math of Immigration Detention: Runaway Costs for Immigration Detention Do Not Add Up to Sensible Policies" (.pdf)

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