ICE Chief Asks Congress To Pony Up More Cash For Detention Beds While Thousands Remain Empty

President Joe Biden’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting chief defended asking Congress to fund more bed space for detaining illegal aliens despite the high number of such units that aren’t being utilized, during a press conference Thursday.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asked the Senate Appropriation Committee on Nov. 8 to increase the number of detention beds to 46,500 when appropriating funding for ICE after the agency closed several detention facilities and let thousands of detention beds go unused. Biden’s acting ICE chief Patrick J. Lechleitner said the agency needs the funding for more beds to address “surge capacity.”

“Our detention capacity is actually, it’s dynamic. We do close facilities and we open facilities as it goes by because we have to be responsive to the environment we’re in. Some cases detention facilities have to be closed because they’re not up to our standards. Our standards are pretty high and we have to close them,” Lechleitner said in response to a Daily Caller News Foundation question.

Border Patrol recorded more than 2.2 million encounters of migrants crossing the southern border illegally in fiscal year 2022 and more than 2 million in fiscal year 2023, according to federal data.


ICE’s facility in Adelanto, for example, had an average daily population of 16 illegal aliens where there is bed space for 640 individuals, according to ICE data as of Sept. 18. The Latest ICE data show there’s seven individuals in custody at Adelanto as of Jan. 12.

ICE had to limit the number of detainees sent to Adelanto due to a September 2020 court order concerning COVID-19 outbreaks in the facility.

“We have to move some facilities because of the dynamic environment we’re in for detention. As it relates to do we have unused beds, sometimes we have guaranteed minimums so we have to be able to surge beds, so we have to have enough beds available so that when we do encounter more people, we have some place to put them because if we only have X number of beds… that’s fine for a little while but then we run it, and then all of a sudden, we’re going oh, we need a few more,” he said.

Lechleitner didn’t provide an answer to the DCNF’s question about how many of the more than 6 million illegal aliens ICE is monitoring that have been released into the country he would want in detention.

“Well, if we don’t have that surge capacity, we’re stuck. So we have to have some. So sometimes we’re going to have some unused beds per se because we have those minimums, but it’s not because we don’t want to be good stewards of funds. It’s because we need the capacity to deal with the ever changing environment,” he said.

Republican California Rep. Jay Obernolte, who has been pressing the Biden administration on its handling of the Adelanto case, previously told the DCNF that the release of illegal aliens into the interior of the country is harmful to the nation.

“Although DHS is required by law to detain illegal immigrants, the agency’s improper utilization of existing detention space has led to a debilitating release of illegal immigrants into U.S. communities,” Obernolte told the DCNF. “It’s time for ICE and DHS to work with Congress to secure the border and bring an end to the crisis that is overwhelming support services and law enforcement authorities throughout our country.”

Jennie Taer on January 25, 2024

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