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Quigley Offers Amendment to End Detention of Children and Families

Jul 14, 2015
Press Release

Amendment Would Save Taxpayers over $345 Million

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2016 Homeland Security appropriations bill that would prohibit the detention of immigrant children and families in our nation’s immigration detention centers, saving over $345 million in taxpayer dollars from family detention and reinvesting that money into more humane and cost-effective Alternatives to Detention. 

“The detention of immigrant mothers and children who pose no flight risk or danger to the community is simply unacceptable and goes against this country’s most fundamental values. Not to mention, it costs American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” said Rep. Quigley. “By ending unnecessary family detention and investing in secure, effective, and more humane Alternatives to Detention, we can use the significant savings for essential Homeland Security programs that Americans rely on every day like pre-disaster mitigation grants, firefighter grants, and flood mapping.” 

Rep. Quigley’s amendment would reinvest $12 million of the over $345 million saved from ending family detention into Alternatives to Detention, which have been proven to be secure, more humane, and much more cost effective. The rest of the savings would be used to increase several Homeland Security programs that were underfunded in the bill but have broad bipartisan support including pre-disaster mitigation grants, flood mapping, Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grants and Assistance to Firefighters grants.

"Locking up immigrant children and their mothers is an affront to our values as a nation," said Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center. "We are grateful that Congressman Mike Quigley took a stand for justice for these families by advocating to defund family detention."

Evidence suggests that even detention for a brief period of time is detrimental to the mental and physical health of children. Experts confirm that the stress of detention can damage a child’s developing brain and re-traumatize victims of violence. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data shows that the vast majority of mothers and children in family detention have been found to have legitimate asylum claims after fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. 

For the over 2,700 family detention beds mandated for fiscal year 2016 in this bill, Congress is spending over $342 per family detention bed per day. By contrast, alternatives to detention for immigrant children and families can cost less than $6 per day. Alternatives to Detention have been effectively used by the criminal justice system for decades. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) current Alternatives to the Detention program and several community support pilot programs have shown an over 95 percent compliance with immigration hearings and removal.

Rep. Quigley has been a staunch advocate of comprehensive immigration reform throughout his time in Congress and has pushed Congress to pass a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Most recently, Rep. Quigley secured $1 million in the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill for an immigration help desk pilot program to provide legal information for immigrants in removal proceedings. He joined a Congressional Equality Caucus roundtable discussion with undocumented LGBT advocates to emphasize the importance of including the LGBT immigrant community in the president’s executive actions on immigration. He used his position on the House Appropriations Committee to highlight the need for Congress to protect undocumented immigrants from abuse in detention centers, reject unconstitutional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers and end a mandated detention bed quota that wastes millions of dollars annually. Quigley also led a letter last summer urging the president to take executive action to enact more human immigration deportation and detention policies