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Chairman Nadler Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on "The Expansion and Troubling Use of ICE Detention"

Sep 26, 2019

Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement during a Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing on "The Expansion and Troubling Use of ICE Detention:"

"Over the last seven months, this Committee has devoted considerable attention to the Trump Administration’s cruel policies at the border and its attempts to deter individuals from seeking asylum and other humanitarian protections from our nation.  Today, we shift our focus to examining the impact of the Administration’s approach to immigration detention in the interior of the United States.

"Unfortunately, much of what has been observed in the interior is the same as what we have seen at the border.  Under the Trump Administration, the number of people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has skyrocketed while detention conditions and agency transparency and accountability have deteriorated.

"Detention levels have increased, largely due to the Administration’s manipulation of the budget process to expand the number of detention beds.  As of September 14, 2019, ICE was holding 51,814 people in detention—roughly 11,000 more people per day than what was authorized by the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bill.  Of those detained, we are seeing an increasing number of women, including pregnant women, and asylum seekers who have committed no crime and who pose no threat to our country.

"Not surprisingly, with the increased number of detainees, we are also seeing an increase in reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in detention facilities, as well as allegations of mistreatment.  In September 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General documented significant violations of ICE’s own detention standards, not to mention basic human dignity, at the Adelanto Detention Center in California. 

"The IG observed nooses dangling from air vents, individuals denied access to basic dental care, and a disabled man being placed in segregation and left in his wheelchair for nine days.  Such treatment should shock the conscience.  Despite this, Adelanto passed its last ICE inspection in October 2018.

"A June 2019 IG report also found unsanitary conditions in the Essex, New Jersey detention facility, including mold, spoiled food, and malfunctioning toilets.  The IG also found that detainees at Essex suffered from a shortage of personal hygiene products, including soap and toiletries.  Collectively, the violations at Essex were so severe that the IG’s investigation led to immediate personnel changes at the facility. 

"For most of American history, immigration matters have been—and are still today—adjudicated as a civil matter.  In that spirit, the detention of immigrants in a system that is based on the criminal justice model should be the exception, not the rule.  

"We have the capability to safely and compassionately process migrants, women, and children, and to ensure that they appear for their scheduled hearings.  Instead of relying on the physical detention of immigrants, ICE could employ a broad array of alternatives to detention with equal success and at far less a cost.  Research has shown that automated telephone systems to remind people of their scheduled court dates and ankle monitors, help ensure compliance for people released on their own recognizance or on bond.  

"According to Fiscal Year 2018 data, the average cost of detaining an immigrant per day is $208.  In contrast, community-based alternatives to detention have been proven to operate effectively for as little as $17 dollars per person per day.

"Further, the Family Case Management Program that ICE operated from January 2016 through June 2017 produced compliance rates of 99 percent at a cost of just $38 per family, per day.  Despite the program’s success, the Trump Administration terminated it.  Fortunately, Congress has passed legislation that mandates that ICE restart the program this year.

"The Trump Administration’s immigration policies have been a failure on a policy level—and more importantly—as a matter of basic human decency.  I want to thank Chair Lofgren and Vice-Chair Jayapal for holding this important hearing, and I thank all of today’s witnesses for testifying, especially those who have come forward to share their experience in ICE detention.  I look forward to their testimony, and I yield back the balance of my time."

116th Congress