Immigration Detention: Republican Congressman Questions Costs, Suggests ‘Overuse’ is Occurring

capitol 300Today, I’m pleased to share the thoughts of LIRS Director for Advocacy Brittney Nystrom, who sat in on yesterday’s hearing on immigration detention before the House Judiciary Committee.

Last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained 429,000 migrants and refugees in a labyrinth of immigration detention facilities.  The practice of detaining so many individuals is enormously expensive, and better alternatives exist.  Questions about the wisdom of detaining so many people in tight fiscal times are now coming from both sides of the aisle.

At yesterday’s hearing, a Republican congressman from Alabama, Rep. Spencer Bachus, demanded some answers to questions that we here at LIRS have also been asking.

Congressman Bachus asked ICE Director John Morton several questions about the use of detention to enforce civil immigration laws.  The congressman wanted to know,:

  • “Why don’t you do a risk analysis on the detained population? Some of these people are relatives of U.S. citizens, people who came here as children.”
  • “If they’re not violent, if they’re not repeat offenders,  why detain them at all?”
  • “Why do we spend $164/day to detain these individuals?”

The congressman appeared to answer his own questions with this astute observation: “I would suggest there is an overuse of detention.”  

Related posts:


  1. Congressman Bachus’ questions and comments are a sign that perhaps we will begin to see an end to the detention policy that currently exists.


  1. [...] was heartened to hear a Republican congressman suggest that the Department of Homeland Security is overusing the detention of migrants and refugees. My spirits soared further when reading a letter by eight senators asking [...]

  2. [...] republicano indicar que el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional se está excediendo en el uso de la detención de migrantes y refugiados. Me emocioné aun más cuando se leyó una carta firmada por siete senadores en la que solicitan [...]

  3. [...] and early March. Last week at a House hearing about the releases, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) asked ICE Director John Morton why ICE was spending $164 each day to hold immigrants “if they’re not [...]

  4. [...] podcast by clicking here. Coming against a backdrop of congressional hearings, questions about the “overuse” of detention, and media interest in private-sector profits on detention, the interview included [...]

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