Thanas: Release shows need for immigrant detention centers
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org February 27, 2013 5:02PM
Updated: March 2, 2013 8:29PM
The early release of immigrant detainees announced this week is a sign that the federal government needs new detention centers, Joliet City Manager Thomas Thanas said Wednesday.
Joliet is a potential contender for a future immigrant detention center that could be built in the Chicago area.
U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement in the past week has released several hundred detainees amid the financial uncertainty of a Friday deadline for budget cuts and opted for less costly supervision.
Thanas, however, said the government needs detention centers like the one contemplated for the Chicago area to replace a system that depends on costly incarceration in county jails and state prisons.
“I think it’s an issue of the cost of housing detainees being so great under the current system that ICE is saying the current system doesn’t work, and a new system is needed,” Thanas said. “It’s a proven fact that having to pay $400 to $500 a night in a county jail or state penitentiary is a broken system that needs to be fixed by the federal government.”
An ICE spokeswoman would not comment on what connection the early release of immigrant detainees might have to the agency’s plan for another detention center in the Chicago area.
The agency released a statement saying the release of detainees was due to “fiscal uncertainty” related to the sequestration debate in Washington.
“Over the last week, ICE has reviewed several hundred cases and placed these individuals on methods of supervision less costly than detention,” Deputy Press Secretary Gillian Christensen said in the statement.
Detainees who have been released remain in deportation proceedings, Christensen said. But, “Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety,” he said.
Congress requires that ICE maintain 34,000 immigration detention beds.
Some critics of the release of detainees have contended that it was a political move by President Obama to try to force a budget compromise.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.