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ICE is detaining an average of 44,631 people a day, new report shows

The agency won't say where it's getting the money to fund its record detentions.

A protestor waves towards cell windows where ICE detainees are being held in upper floors of the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Los Angeles, California, on June 14, 2018. CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A protestor waves towards cell windows where ICE detainees are being held in upper floors of the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Los Angeles, California, on June 14, 2018. CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Immigrations and Custom Enforcement has an average of 44,631 people a day in custody — 4,000 more than Congress has budgeted for, according to a new report in The Daily Beast.

The agency won’t say where it’s getting the money to detain additional people, but in the past it has funded detention beds by moving money from other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

That move drew criticism from congressional Democrats, who have accused ICE of withholding necessary information from Congress, which oversees Executive Branch agencies.

“It is incredibly important that ICE explain how they’re paying for nearly 4,000 more beds,” Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Daily Beast. “In September, when I discovered that ICE had been reprogramming FEMA dollars to pay for immigrant detention centers, I wasn’t given the information from the administration. I wasn’t given the information as a member of the Senate appropriations committee. I found the information through outside resources.”

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The daily average of people in ICE custody has risen steadily throughout the Trump administration. Last November, the daily average was 39,322 people. By Sept. 15, it had risen to 42,105. The new daily average of 44,631, set as of Oct. 20, is the highest yet. Taken together, these numbers show that the Trump administration is well on its way to busting the previous record set at the end of the Obama administration, when ICE was holding an average of 34,376 people a day as of Sept. 30, 2016.

The sharp increase in immigration detentions is the latest sign of the Trump administration’s push to limit both legal and illegal immigration into the United States. Speaking to The Daily Beast, Merkley accused the administration of “exceeding historic high water marks of detainees to pursue their ideologically driven policy agenda.”

ICE requested funds for 51,000 detention beds this year, but Congress gave it funds for just 40,520. That raises serious questions about where ICE is getting the money to detain an additional 4,000 people every day — questions ICE has, so far, refused to answer.

“There is no ambiguity about how this is supposed to work,” Merkley told The Daily Beast. “It is Congress’ job to decide budgets and ICE must work within the budget that Congress sets.”