ICE Director Defends Returning $113M in Funds for Detention, Removal of Illegals in FY 2015

Melanie Arter | September 22, 2016 | 1:00pm EDT
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ICE Director Sarah Saldana (AP Photo)

( - The director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Thursday defended her agency’s decision to return $113 million in funds allocated for the detention and removal of illegal immigrants in FY 2015.

“Your organization operates with limited resources, and yet, in fiscal year 2015, you gave back to the Department of Homeland Security $113 million in funds that were specifically appropriated for detention and removal. Why did you give this money back given the problems that were decided by Mr. Smith and the fact as Mr. Conyers noted you have limited resources to begin with?” House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) asked at a committee hearing on ICE oversight.


“Absolutely, sir, … this whole issue of how we manage funds for specific categories, in this case beds, is extremely important to me and to our folks in the enforcement and removal area as it is obviously to you. Last year, it is very difficult for us to anticipate the number of people coming across the border from one year to the next. It goes up, and it goes down even over the course of a year,” ICE Director Sarah Saldana explained.

“I understand that,” Goodatte said, “but Mr. Smith noted that there are over 250,000 individuals in this country who are not lawful in this country and have committed crimes in the country, so that number continues to rise, and therefore, while it may be difficult to predict how many people come across the border, it’s not difficult to know that you’ve got 250,000 who are already here who shouldn’t be here, and therefore, should be - until they are deported - in detention facilities or using resources to detain them and then remove them.”

“And we are sir, that is exactly what we’re trying to do,” said Saldana. “This enforcement priority approach that you have, you and I disagree on as to its wisdom focuses not on the release of criminal aliens but on the apprehension and removal of criminal aliens.

“Our statistics alone with respect to the beds, those are filled with people with one or more convictions that we are preparing to remove from the country. I think the last number I saw was something like 84 percent fit into our top priority, so we manage these beds as best as we can,” she said.

“Last year, we had some beds that were not filled. This year, we have the opposite problem. We have more people in beds than we can afford, but we’re working very hard to manage that problem through the end of the fiscal year,” Saldana added.

“I would recommend that when you have limited resources and you have a huge problem that’s not addressed, you not return money back that could be used to keep Americans safer than they are right now,” Goodlatte said.

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