Democrats Try to Stop Immigrant Prison Expansion

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As the Trump administration tries to incarcerate more undocumented immigrants facing deportation, two Democrats are trying to get Congress to stop that momentum, USA Today reports. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), favor a moratorium on the construction or expansion of immigration detention facilities. The bill would dedicate $45 million to improve federal oversight of those prisons, which have been accused of fostering dangerous conditions leading to the death of more than 170 inmates over the past 15 years.

Harris blamed several presidential administrations for approving a never-ending expansion of publicly and privately run immigration prisons. From 1994 to 2018, the number of immigration beds nationwide has jumped from fewer than 7,000 to nearly 40,000. Harris said the rapid expansion has left immigrants vulnerable to “inhumane” conditions that aren’t being adequately monitored. Adding more bed space, she said, would only exacerbate the problem. Republicans congressional leaders have been hesitant oppose President Trump’s efforts to clamp down on illegal immigration. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a request for proposals to build new immigration prisons in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and south Texas. It requested $2.7 billion in the 2019 budget to increase immigration detention space. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended her agency’s ability to care for inmates during a congressional hearing, calling medical services adequate for all inmates. The Justice Department has tried to end “catch and release” policies that allow immigration judges to release immigrants on bond as they wait for their day in court, a period that could take years given massive backlogs in the immigration court system.

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