The number of inmates in Louisiana jails has dropped over the past few years, but their beds aren’t empty.
Instead, local jails have contracted with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house those detained by the federal agency. Chief among the detainees are people seeking asylum.
Four agreements between ICE and local jails have opened space for about 2,800 jail detainees, which has more than doubled the room that ICE had in the state before.
That’s a win-win situation for both ICE, which needs the space for asylum-seekers, and local jails, which receive a reimbursement from the federal government. Louisiana jails receive about $65 a day for housing detainees. The state Department of Corrections pays less than half of that.
And it’s bad news for the migrants who are eager to start their lives in safety in the United States but who have been caught in President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward people living in the U.S. illegally.
The Trump administration has sought to keep as many people looking for asylum as possible in detention centers as their applications wind their way through a clogged government process.
In the past, migrants were free while immigration cases were processed. Now, there is space to keep them locked up.
“I can confirm that, due to an influx in Southwest Border cases and the increased need for ICE detention capacity, ICE has begun using new facilities in Louisiana” in recent months, an ICE spokesman told The Advocate.
ICE also has detention facilities in Jena and Pine Prairie, as well as at a staging facility at the Alexandria airport
This is a new era when it comes to immigration detention, but one thing hasn’t changed. Migrants have the right to consult with an immigration attorney to help them through their applications for asylum and make sure their case moves forward.