Despite Budget Woes, Congress Prepares to Spend More Money Locking Up Migrants

BALTIMORE, December 15, 2011 – Although facing nearly $1 trillion in federal budget deficits, Congress is on track to increase immigration detention spending in FY 2012 by over $150 million. This morning, the House of Representatives unveiled H.R. 3671, a “megabus” FY 2012 appropriations bill negotiated with the Senate that includes funding through September 30, 2012 for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a number of other federal agencies. H.R. 3671 would increase immigration detention spending to a grand total of $2.02 billion by inflating the number of detention beds available each day by 600 to a total of 34,000. This increase could result in the detention of about 6,000 more migrants next year.

In a recent report, Unlocking LibertyA Way Forward for U.S. Immigration Policy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) demonstrated that investing in alternative to detention programs is the best way to reconcile the competing needs to enforce U.S. immigration laws, respect the human dignity of migrants, and save valuable taxpayer dollars.

“If Congress is trying to reduce the federal deficit, why are they going to increase immigration detention?” said Eric B. Sigmon, LIRS Director for Advocacy. “Instead Congress should invest in proven alternatives that are cheaper, more humane, and more effective.”

In FY 1994 the federal government detained nearly 82,000 migrants. In FY 2011 that figure skyrocketed to over 363,000 at a cost of $1.9 billion to U.S. taxpayers. Meanwhile, alternative to detention programs which include which include electronic monitoring and regular check-ins with DHS, cost only $72 million and represent a smarter, cheaper, and more humane way to ensure compliance with U.S. immigration laws.

Unlocking Liberty, an LIRS report that explores key policy reforms that can relieve the suffering of thousands of immigrants who are unnecessarily detained every year, is available at

About Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

LIRS welcomes refugees and migrants on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with and on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

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