When the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office detain immigrants, many people in Ephrata likely think of dangerous criminals who need to be locked up to protect the community. In reality, a lot of the people who are detained by ICE have either done nothing wrong or something as minor as speeding. Just because they are in the country without the requisite permission means they are often locked up for months awaiting a deportation hearing before being unceremoniously returned to the country from which they came or, in more fortunate cases, being awarded a green card.
So, recognizing that many of the immigrants being detained in Lancaster County are next to harmless, it is surprising that the DHS hasn’t been using supervised release more frequently. Supervised release can entail several different things, but one thing is certain, the immigrants are out of jail and are able to spend time with their family members, some of whom are already American citizens.
What is most shocking, however, is just how much money DHS can save by using supervised release. Each immigrant that is housed in a jail cell will cost the government approximately $164 a day. On the other hand, supervised can cost as low as 30 cents a day and as high as $14 a day. With 30,773 immigrants detained across the country on average, switching to supervised release for many immigrants could cost the federal government a considerable amount.
As the government and people of Lancaster County get ready for the upcoming budget cuts across many different departments, DHS has been releasing immigrants to supervised release programs. This kind fiscal responsibility also will do a lot to help reunite families across the country. It remains to be seen if this is just the threat of sequester or if this is to become a more permanent policy.
Source: The Associated Press, “DHS releasing illegal immigrants before sequester,” Alicia Caldwell, Feb. 26, 2013
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