Congress appropriated $2.051 billion to DHS for custody operations in fiscal year 2012 to fund 34,000 immigration prison beds, a researcher at the Congressional Research Service reported recently. Alison Siskin, Immigration-Related Detention: Current Legislative Issues (Congressional Research Service Jan. 12, 2012).
Despite the country’s economic problems, immigration imprisonment funding has increased steadily since FY 2008, the first year included in the CRS report. Siskin at 15. Between FY ’11 and FY ’12, for example, “Congress increased the number of beds by 600, and increased funding for custody operations by $257 million.” Siskin at 15.
The cost seems attributable to increased imprisonment capacity and increased costs per bed. Every year since 2001 DHS (or its INS predecessor) has increased the number of beds available each night. Today’s 34,000 beds are a significant jump from the 19,702 immigration beds spread throughout the country in FY ’01. Siskin at 13. The last fiscal year in which DHS paid for fewer than 30,000 beds was FY 2007 when it funded 27,500 beds.
Meanwhile, costs per bed have increased. In FY ’11 “it cost DHS an average of $113 a day for each detainee held in detention,” excluding transportation costs or the costs of actual removing someone from the country. Siskin at 14. Daily costs at DHS owned and operated “service processing centers,” the report added, are $117 per day, while beds cost $85 per day at privately owned “contract detention facilities.” Siskin at 14 n. 78. The report does not explain the cost disparity.
While capacity and cost have risen so has the daily population. Indeed, the report explains, “the average daily detention population is closely tied to the amount of funded bedspace.” Siskin at 12. In FY ’01, for example, the daily detention population was 20,429. That number had risen to above 20,000 by FY ’03 when it hit 21,133. After dipping below 20,000 in FY ’05 and ’06, the number jumped over the 30,000 mark in FY ’08 and hasn’t dropped below that milestone since. In FY ’08, on average 31,771 people were in DHS custody per night; 32,098 in FY ’09; 30,885 in FY’ 10; 33,330 in FY ’11; and 32,953 in FY ’12. Siskin at 13 fig. 1.