Why the Trump Admin Wants More Detention Space for Migrants and Democrats Want a Limit

WASHINGTON — Talks to avert another government shutdown broke down over the weekend — this time over Democrats’ demand for a cap on the number of undocumented immigrants who can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The issue has reared its head because the White House has asked for $4.2 billion for ICE to increase its capacity to detain immigrants to 52,000, up from 40,000 currently funded by Congress. Democrats want to cap the detention space ICE can use to hold immigrants in the interior of the country — away from the border — at 16,500.

Here’s a look at what’s driving both sides to their positions.


Currently, ICE is already holding more immigrants than Congress has authorized. Although it is only authorized to hold 40,000, there were 49,057 immigrants in ICE detention as of Feb. 6, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee. An ICE spokeswoman said the average daily population for this year as of Jan. 26 was 45,671.

When ICE does not have funding for space, they may take funds from other areas or use contracts with prisons to find additional beds for immigrants.

In the interior of the country, where Democrats would like to see a limit of 16,500 immigrants in detention, there are approximately 20,800 migrants being held, according to an ICE official authorized to speak on the subject.

By Julia Ainsley and Heidi Przybyla for NBC NEWS

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