Democrats calling for Biden administration to bar ICE from contracting with jails

Two dozen House Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to phase out Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) contracts with state, local and county jails and prisons.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is leading the effort, requesting in a letter that the administration release an executive order detailing the Department of Justice’s plan to stop renewing ICE and USMS contracts with the jails and prisons. 

The letter, which was addressed to Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, was first obtained by Politico

The lawmakers pointed to President Biden’s earlier executive order mandating that the attorney general not renew contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities, noting that conditions for detainees in government-owned facilities “mirror” those in private facilities.

“Conditions in municipal, county, and state jails and prisons contracting with ICE to detain immigrants mirror the systemic abuses in privately operated immigration detention facilities, including medical neglect, long term use of solitary confinement, sexual assault, and lack of access to legal counsel,” their letter reads.

The Democrats noted that the majority of ICE facilities operate through contracts between the agency and the localities, with 49 percent of ICE detainees in county-owned facilities and 14 percent in city and municipality-owned centers, according to a 2019 Brooking Institute study.

The lawmakers condemned ICE’s agreements with some local governments to give a per diem rate to hold immigrants that’s “substantially higher” than the per diem rate for those held in criminal custody.

“This financial incentive has fueled the expansion of immigration detention throughout the country, including in states such as Louisiana, which successfully reduced criminal incarceration levels, only to re-fill those same beds with immigrants,” they said.

“In order to truly sever the financial incentives causing the expansion of an unnecessary and abuse-ridden system of mass incarceration, we urge you to end contracts between the federal government and localities for the purposes of immigration detention,” the lawmakers added. 

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told The Hill that it responds to congressional correspondence through official channels.

The Department of Justice did not immediately return a request for comment.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas biden administration contacts ICE ICE contracts Ilhan Omar Immigration Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration detention Joe Biden Susan Rice U.S. Marshals service

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