The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expanding a national prison system to detains immigrants facing possible deportation, the Denver Post reports. The move would help officials hold up to 8,000 more suspected illegal immigrants a day. The current population of about 22,000 detainees is the fastest-growing segment of the federal prison population.
Federal officials say more space is needed for an accelerated effort to round up 400,000 of the estimated 8 million to 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The 400,000 have been ordered out of the country by judges but have failed to comply. The goal is to deport all of them within five years; 18 teams of a dozen or so agents have been searching since June. Homeland Security chiefs favor federal legislation to enlist local law enforcement in the hunt.
“If we don’t have a place to keep them, they’re going to disappear, and we will have to go look for them again,” said Garrison Courtney of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The average time held is 41 days — because a majority of detainees are illegal workers from Central America and Mexico who are sent home within a few days without seeing judges.