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June 4, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Consider alternatives to locking up immigrants in ICE detention centers

Wednesday’s editorial in The Seattle Times pushes for increased oversight of U.S. Immigration and Enforcement’s Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats.

Under the status quo system — which includes an odd mandate that 34,000 detention beds are filled every night at a cost of nearly $2 billion to taxpayers (The Center for American Progress has produced several informative graphics, including the two below.)  — private prison contractors are guaranteed business.

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

As The Atlantic and many other news organizations have reported in recent years, private contractors such as The GEO Group are making a killing at taxpayers’ expense. Not only are they profiting off crowded federal detention centers (which have doubled in occupancy over the last several years), numerous stories suggest they are protecting their profit margins by spending big bucks on lobbying.

As of June 2, local ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz reported that 1,315 detainees are in the Northwest Detention Center. Those inside who await possible deportation are not current criminal offenders. These are people who might have overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally and got caught during one of ICE’s random enforcements. See the graphic below to get a sense of how long detainees are held.

Infographic by the Center for American Progress

Infographic by the Center for American Progress

What’s the cost to taxpayers? Munoz wrote in an email that ICE’s current contract guarantees GEO is paid a daily minimum of $100.65 to operate at least 1,181 beds. Each additional bed is provided at a discounted rate of $62.52. There’s not much incentive to keep the numbers down.

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Comments | Topics: adam smith, cout, detention center