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The Number Of Jailed Immigrants Is At A Record High — And Rising

President Trump's crackdown on immigrants is good news for private prisons. But some argue their business model leads to abuse and neglect.
Posted at 3:54 PM, May 18, 2018

President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration means more and more undocumented immigrants are behind bars.

There are more than 200 facilities across the nation that hold immigrants in limbo. They're detained there while their asylum requests or deportation proceedings go through the court system.

And since that system is heavily backlogged, some immigrants are incarcerated for years.

From 1994 to 2017, the number of immigrants detained, sometimes measured by number of beds, has jumped by 500 percent — from less than 7,000 to more than 40,000.

With Trump's efforts to arrest more immigrants at the border and in the interior, that number is likely to rise even more. Especially if we consider Trump's opposition to supervised release.

In its 2019 budget, the White House requested money to bring the current number of detention beds to more than 50,000, but Congress declined.

And in October, the administration put out preliminary requests to contractors for potential new detention sites around the Midwest.

Most inmates are held in facilities operated by private companies. And the more immigrants these for-profit companies detain, the more money they seem to make.

A private jail typically charges the government a daily rate per detained immigrant. And in order to cut costs and maximize profits, human rights groups say these contractors routinely neglect detainees' medical care.

Advocates of the private system say competition lowers costs, which in turn saves taxpayer dollars.

Earlier this week, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to halt the expansion of immigrant jails, improve oversight of these facilities and use alternatives to detention, such as ankle monitors.

More than 170 inmates have died while in immigration custody over the past 15 years.