The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is pushing back against reported new plans by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to expand detention facilities for immigrants in the U.S. illegally through the use of private prisons.
In a Thursday statement, the ACLU said it was joining 13 legal service providers and immigrant rights organizations in opposing the move.
"This attempt to expand ICE jails is part of the continued assault on immigrant communities, and a boon to the private prison industry," said the ACLU's director of immigration policy Lorella Praeli.
ICE recently sent out requests to Chicago, Detroit, Salt Lake City and St. Paul, Minn., to identify privately run prison sites that it could use to detain more immigrants, USA Today reported. The agency has not yet announced its plans publicly.
The expansion of facilities comes as the agency has greatly increased its arrests as part of the Trump administration's wider goal of cracking down on illegal immigration. According to data from ICE, the agency has arrested 28,011 immigrants in the country without legal permission who have no criminal record from Jan. 22 to Sept. 9, a reported 179 percent increase over the same period of time during the last year of the Obama administration.
The ACLU fears that immigrants sent to the facilities would be without legal counsel or other aid in "a detention system notoriously lacking in transparency and accountability."
ICE currently houses between 31,000 and 41,000 immigrants per day in public and privately-owned prison facilities. The White House has requested a provision of $1.2 billion in the 2018 federal budget to expand ICE's capacity to house up to 48,000 immigrants per day.
“ICE’s intention to expand detention in areas surrounding four of the nation’s largest cities is an attack on the freedom of long term residents, including Dreamers, and asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their home countries," Praeli said in the statement.
Democrats have stated that an increase in capacity for detainment of immigrants here illegally, as well as President Trump's proposed border wall, is a red line in their push to reach a deal with Republicans on a deal securing protections for so-called Dreamers, or immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.