Federal immigration authorities faced with overburdened detention centers are scouring the nation to find space to house migrants as the crush of asylum seekers that has overwhelmed the Southwest border spreads into the interior, the New York Times reports. With federal initiatives holding more migrants in custody, officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement are looking for additional space that can be rented in existing jails, as well as fast-tracking the deportations of detainees and releasing as many migrants as possible to make room for newcomers. Department of Homeland Security officials have looked at housing migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The proposal has not gained traction, perhaps because of the optics of housing young people near terrorism suspects.
The Defense Department is attempting to identify military bases that might be used for that purpose. Authorities are confronting the next phase of detention, the long-term facilities in the nation’s interior where many incoming migrants will eventually be transferred. Populations in detention facilities have grown under President Trump. ICE is housing 50,223 migrants, one of the highest numbers on record, above the congressionally mandated limit of 45,274. In President Obama’s last year in office, the daily population of immigrants in detention dipped to 34,376. Immigrant advocates said the crunch has been self-imposed by the administration. Under Trump, ICE agents have been encouraged to arrest anyone living in the U.S. without legal status, regardless of their criminal record. The Obama administration put a priority on deporting undocumented migrants considered dangerous. The Guardian had a different take on the subject, reporting that some U.S. detention centers that hold migrant parents and children have been nearly empty for months. There were nearly 2,000 empty beds in two centers last week, with a facility in Dilley, Tx., at 26 percent capacity and a facility in Berks County, Pa., at 19 percent capacity.