Post by Stephen Meili, Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School. This is the ninth instalment of Border Criminologies’ themed series on 'Immigration Detention in an Era of Mass Mobility' organised by Mary Bosworth.

While President Trump’s recently announced budget proposal garnered most attention for what it proposes to cut (funding for programs that aid the poor, the elderly, the disabled, women and children) it is also noteworthy for one of the few programs it proposes to increase by a significant margin:  the U.S. detention and deportation apparatus. Trump’s budget offers a blueprint for an unprecedented expansion of the government’s ability to deprive immigrants of their Constitutional rights.

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

It attempts to achieve this goal in three major ways: (1) significantly increasing funding for detention facilities; (2) reducing protections for certain classes of detainees, primarily the mentally ill; and (3) broadening the range of undocumented immigrants subject to detention and deportation. In these ways, Trump’s budget is the clearest indication of the way he intends to transform his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into reality. This is where the rubber hits the proverbial road.

  1. Increased Size of the Detention Apparatus

Trump’s budget calls for an unprecedented $1.2 billion expansion in the American detention capacity, which represents over 25% of his proposed budget. ICE officials had previously located over 20,000 existing beds at country jails around the U.S. that could be used to house the increased number of immigrants detained, mostly as a result of the Trump Admininstration’s effort to make good on its campaign promise to secure the border and deport those present in the U.S. without documentation. If it meets that goal, it would constitute a 500% increase in the number of beds dedicated to immigrant detainees around the country. As statistics show that border crossings have declined since Trump became President, most of this massive funding increase would be devoted to detaining persons already in the U.S. And while some of the funding would go to existing county jails, much of it would assist the private corporations that run immigrant detention facilities, most notably CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America), which operates on a profit-making basis and has been the subject of numerous complaints regarding the conditions of its facilities.

  1. Expanded Detention of Non-criminal Detainees

The first three months of the Trump Administration has seen a 35% increase in the arrests of immigrants suspected of being in the country without documentation, as compared with the similar time period in 2016. Theses arrest have disproportionately targeted those without any criminal record. In the latter years of thee Obama Administration, ICE had exercised prosecutorial discretion in focusing less on persons without such a record. Thus, whereas the arrest of those with criminal convictions rose by 20% in January-April 2017 as compared to the same period in 2016, the arrest of those without such convictions has risen by more than 200%. This evidence demonstrates that ICE is focusing a disproportionate share of its resources (which look to grow tremendously under Trump’s budget) on those who have committed no crime and who, in many cases, are productive members of society who pay taxes, raise families, start new businesses and strengthen communities.

  1. Curtailing Protections for Detainees

While not included in Trump’s budget, one of the ways that his Administration reportedly plans to change detention policy is by cutting back on protections for detainees that were put in place by previous Administrations, both Democrat and Republican. Many of these protections pertain to the mental and physical health of detainees. Thus, for example, officials are required to check on suicidal detainees every 15 minutes and evaluate their mental health every day, inform all detainees how to obtain medical care and arrange for a medical professional to evaluate a detainee’s request for medical within 24 hours. The Trump Administration has proposed rolling back such protections as a means of convincing local officials to allow their jails to be used to house the influx of detainees sure to result from Trump’s expanded enforcement goals.

The first 150 days of the Trump Administration have demonstrated that many of his campaign promises were mere empty slogans (“Drain the Swamp” comes to mind most forcefully). But his expanded arrest, detention and deportation apparatus, supported by his recently proposed budget, demonstrates that he fully intends to keep his promise to remove large numbers of undocumented persons from the United States, at whatever cost.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style)

Meili, S. (2017) Trump Budget Offers Further Evidence of Intended Expansion of Immigrant Detention in the U.S.. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2017/06/trump-budget (Accessed [date])