As Congress considers addressing some of the problems in the nation’s immigration system, the detention of noncitizens in the United States may be an issue as Congress may chose to reevaluate detention priorities (i.e., who should be detained) and resources. Under the law, there is broad authority to detain aliens while awaiting a determination of whether the noncitizen should be removed from the United States. The law also mandates that certain categories of aliens are subject to mandatory detention (i.e., the aliens must be detained). Aliens subject to mandatory detention include those arriving without documentation or with fraudulent documentation, those who are inadmissable or deportable on criminal grounds, those who are inadmissable or deportable on national security grounds, those certified as terrorist suspects, and those who have final orders of deportation. Aliens not subject to mandatory detention may be detained, paroled, or released on bond. The priorities for detention of these aliens are specified in statute and regulations. As of December 13, 2011, on an average day in FY2012, 32,953 noncitizens were in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody.
There are many policy issues surrounding detention of aliens. The Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) increased the number of aliens subject to mandatory detention, and raised concerns about the justness of mandatory detention, especially as it is applied to asylum seekers arriving without proper documentation. Additionally, as DHS increases its ability to identify aliens who are subject to removal from local jails in more remote locations, the nationwide allocation of detention space may become an issue.
The 108th Congress passed P.L. 108-458, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, directing the Secretary of DHS to increase the amount of detention bed space by not less than 8,000 beds for each year, FY2006 through FY2010; a total of 40,000 beds. Although Congress increased the bed space between FY2006 and FY2010, the number of beds only increased by approximately 12,000.
One bill related to immigration detention has received Congressional action in the 112th Congress. H.R. 1932 was placed on the Union Calendar on October 17, 2011. After a removal order has been issued against an alien, the law provides that the alien subject to a final removal order be removed within 90 days, except as otherwise provided in the statute. Certain aliens subject to a removal order “may be detained beyond the removal period and, if released, shall be subject to [certain] terms of supervision.” This provision had been interpreted as permitting indefinite detention where removal was not reasonably foreseeable, but in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court in Zadvydas v. Davis, interpreted it as only permitting detention for up to six months where removal was not reasonably foreseeable. Nonetheless, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled absent clear guidance from Congress. H.R. 1932 as reported by the House Judiciary Committee, would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow DHS to indefinitely detain, subject to six-month reviews, aliens under orders of removal who could not be removed if certain conditions were met.
In addition, in the 112th Congress, other bills have been introduced covering a range of provisions and perspectives concerning the detention of noncitizens. Several bills—including H.R. 100 and H.R. 1274—would mandate that DHS increase the amount of detention space. In addition, other bills (e.g., H.R. 933 and S. 1258) would mandate the propagation of regulations concerning detainee care, and expand the alternatives to detention program. Other proposed legislation, such as H.R. 713, would make changes to the mandatory detention provisions, lessening the categories of aliens required to be detained.
Date of Report: January 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 20 Order Number: RL32369 Price: $29.95
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