ICE said Monday it has signed a contract to set up more than 1,200 new detention beds to process migrant families, in a move that expands the agency’s ability to test new arrivals for the coronavirus.
Tae Johnson, the acting director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the contract is worth $86.9 million, and it will pay for “temporary shelter and processing services” for families who are not immediately turned back at the border, and who will instead be released into the U.S.
The number of such families has been soaring in recent weeks, drawn by changes in immigration policy under the Biden administration as well as lessening cooperation from Mexico in taking families back.
Over the past two months, thousands of families have been caught and released without COVID testing, with ICE having limited capacity.
The new beds will expand ICE’s capacity, though given the flow of people it’s doubtful it will prevent all border releases.
Families are being held by ICE for about three days, which officials say is enough time to do a COVID screening and decide if quarantine is necessary.
Those who do not need quarantine are then released on the hope they will return for their immigration court cases and, in most instances, eventual deportation. Few do.
According to Homeland Security data, of more than 100,000 family migrants who arrived and were released into communities in 2016, just 9% are known to have been ousted as of the middle of 2020.