As President Donald Trump and Congress continue negotiations over border security issues that threaten to once again shut down the federal government, Democrats are attempting to whittle down the number of detained undocumented immigrants caught by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the country’s interior.
The United States currently has more undocumented immigrants in detention than Canada averages in its entire prison system.
According to The Washington Post,
ICE has regularly exceeded the current quota set by Congress on immigrant detention, which is 40,520 beds — although that figure is treated generally as a floor, not a ceiling.
The office of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who has long criticized the Trump administration’s immigration policies, released statistics showing that as of Feb. 6, there were 49,057 people detained, including 46,590 adults and 2,467 families.
An ICE official told The Post that as of Sunday, a total of 48,747 immigrants were in custody.
By comparison, Canada’s average prison population in 2016 was 41,145, according to World Prison Brief data.
Democrats are looking to decrease the number of individuals and families held in detention facilities — particularly those who pose no major threat to the population at large.
Democrats wanted to cap that number at 16,500, which they said is around the level of interior detentions in the final years of the Obama administration, although it’s fewer than the number currently detained under the Trump administration’s enforcement policies. Republicans want to exclude a range of immigrants from the cap. These would be people convicted of, or charged with, a variety of crimes, ranging from violent felonies to misdemeanor drug offenses.
Democrats said that would make the cap toothless, because it would allow ICE to round up numerous people without criminal records and also hold an unlimited number of people who, in some cases, have only been charged with misdemeanors.