ICE to revamp immigrant detention policy

Aug. 6, 2009 at 11:36 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The Obama administration plans to centralize the system of detaining immigrants awaiting deportation from the United States, a top official said Thursday.

John Morton, head of immigration and customs enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security, said the first step is to name a government manager for each of the 23 biggest detention centers, The Wall Street Journal reported. About 40 percent of detainees are in those facilities.

In a conference call with reporters, Morton said the administration plans to review the entire system over several years. The goal is to place detainees who are not charged with crimes in facilities that are less like jails or prisons.

The federal government holds 400,000 detainees in about 350 individual facilities. Some are operated by private companies and the government also contracts with local governments to use their jails.

The system "is disjointed and heavily reliant on contracts with correctional facilities and private industry," Morton said.

Most of the detainees are being held because they are considered flight risks while waiting for deportation or rulings on asylum applications.

Morton did not give specifics on what type of facility would be developed for detainees.

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