Aggressive immigration enforcement has led to record numbers of detainees around the nation, prompting the federal government to speed up deportations and increasingly rely on transfers and contracts with local jails and private companies, says the Los Angeles Times. The detainee population jumped to nearly 27,900 nationwide in fiscal year 2007, up from about 19,700 the previous year. The main reason cited for the upward trend is the government’s decision to end its practice of catching immigrants and immediately releasing them.
Detention is the only way to guarantee that people leave the country when their deportation is ordered. Fewer than a third of people out of custody leave the country when ordered to do so, despite being under intensive supervision. The number of immigrants deported has risen to more than 261,000 in fiscal 2007, up from about 177,000 two years ago. The 2007 fiscal year ended Sept. 30. “The administration has finally realized they needed to dramatically ramp up their detention capacity if immigration enforcement is ever to be credible,” said Mark Krikorian of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies. Immigrants and their advocates say the high numbers have led to crowded conditions and have limited some immigrants’ access to medical care. Detainees at the San Pedro Processing Center in California often had to sleep on inflatable beds on the floor and had difficulty getting access to phones, immigrants and their attorneys said.