US Considers Mass release of Imprisoned Migrants over Financial Woes

Amid a severe budget crunch, a senior US immigration official has announced plans to release thousands of migrants from detention.

An official from US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informed CBS, the BBC’s US partner, about the potential release of 4,000 to 6,000 migrants.

A border bill that aimed to fund immigration detentions faced a setback last week.

Over 6.3 million migrants have entered the US without proper authorization since 2021.

There are currently around 38,000 migrants being held in long-term detention facilities by ICE.

The bipartisan border bill that faced resistance from Republicans last week would have allocated $7.6bn (£6bn) for ICE, which included an extra $3.2bn for detention capacity. This increase would have significantly expanded the agency’s ability to accommodate several thousand more detainees.

As reported by the Washington Post, the bill’s failure led to ICE officials considering a cost-cutting proposal to reduce detentions from 38,000 to 22,000.

According to the report, under the proposal, a portion of the migrants would be sent back to their home countries, while others would be allowed to stay in the US.

When asked by the BBC, a representative from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes ICE, stated that the efforts to secure the border have been consistently underfunded by Congress.

The spokesperson emphasised that the rejection of the border bill could have negative consequences for DHS’s current removal operations and put additional strain on their already overtaxed workforce.

The spokesperson expressed concern about the lack of sufficient funding for Customs and Border Patrol, ICE, and US Citizenship and Immigration Services. They mentioned that without adequate resources, the department may need to reallocate or withdraw resources from other initiatives.

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ICE’s ability to deport migrants could be impacted by a budget shortfall, along with other potential changes to DHS operations, according to a spokesperson.

Any potential action would undoubtedly be met with strong opposition from Republicans, who have consistently advocated for more stringent enforcement and a reduction in the number of migrants being allowed into the US while awaiting immigration court proceedings.

The border has become a source of intense disagreement and political controversy in the US.

According to a January poll conducted by CBS, a significant portion of Americans perceive the situation at the border as a pressing issue, with a majority expressing a desire for stricter policies.

There has been a significant increase in the number of migrants detained during President Joe Biden’s term compared to previous administrations.

Out of the vast number of over 6.3 million individuals, approximately 2.4 million have been granted entry into the United States, primarily to await rulings from immigration courts.

In December 2023, there was a significant increase in migrant detentions, reaching an unprecedented high of over 302,000. However, by the following December, the number dropped by 50% to approximately 124,000.

CBP officials have stated that the significant decrease is due to seasonal patterns and increased enforcement measures.

Increased enforcement by the Mexican government has been credited by experts for the decline in migrants “encounters” at the border. This drop followed a meeting in December between Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

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