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Another Horrible Effect of Sequestration: Letting ‘Noncriminals’ Out of Jail
February 27, 2013, 10:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Another Horrible Effect of Sequestration: Letting ‘Noncriminals’ Out of Jail:

To dramatize the
crippling impact
that the automatic spending cuts scheduled to
take effect this Friday will have on the federal government’s
ability to perform its
most basic functions
, the Obama administration has “released
hundreds of detainees from [immigration] detention centers around
the country in recent days,” The New York
Times
 reports.
In response to complaints from Republicans such as House Judiciary
Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, who worries that “the
administration is needlessly endangering American lives,” a
spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
emphasizes that the people who are being released pose no threat to
public safety because they are “noncriminals and other low-risk
offenders who do not have serious criminal histories.” Which raises
the question: Why were they locked up to begin with?
In addition to the needless loss of liberty and all the
attendant burdens on detainees and their families, there are
taxpayer costs to consider. According to the National Immigration
Forum, keeping someone facing deportation proceedings behind bars
costs $122 to $164 a day, compared to anywhere from 30 cents to $14
a day for supervised release. According to a private contractor
that helps monitor detainees on supervised release, “96 percent of
immigrants enrolled in ICE’s alternatives-to-detention program
attended their final hearing in 2011.” Immigration activist
Carolina Canizales observes that “it shouldn’t take a manufactured
crisis in Washington to prompt our immigration agencies to actually
take steps towards using government resources wisely or keeping
families together.”
Will sequestration force the government to free even more people
who are locked up only because they dared to live and work in the
United States without official permission? Surely that outcome is
too horrible to contemplate. What’s next? Will the government’s
financial desperation result in the release of federal prisoners
serving long sentences for engaging in other consensual
transactions that violate no one’s rights? That would really be
awful.
Jesse James Conto toured
our scandalous immigration detention system in the July 2011 issue
of Reason.  

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