December 13, 2011 Hearing: H.R. 1823, the “Criminal Code Modernization and Simplification Act of 2011”
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is troubled by the rapid growth in the number of migrants jailed every year. In 1994 the federal government detained 81,000 migrants. In fiscal year 2011 the figure skyrocketed to over 363,000. Even as Congress is looking to slash federal spending, earlier this year the House of Representatives passed legislation that would put U.S. taxpayers on the hook for $2.02 billion in immigration detention spending, a $150 million increase above current levels.
Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5) has introduced the Criminal Code Modernization and Simplification Act of 2011 (H.R. 1823), legislation that builds on this disturbing trend. H.R. 1823 is a costly and punitive proposal that would mandate federal prison time for a number of civil immigration violations and eliminate the option to impose less harsh penalties. The bill requires the incarceration of migrants who enter the United States illegally before they could be deported. Migrants charged with document fraud offenses would be locked up for up to 15 years. Both of these provisions represent disproportionate responses to civil immigration violations. Recognizing the significant cost of detention and the need to cut federal spending, it does not make sense for the U.S. Congress to adopt new laws that would place a greater fiscal burden on taxpayers.
“Rather than further tying judges’ hands and creating more laws that are punitive, rigid, and costly, the U.S. government should be developing cost-effective and humane policies that ensure detention is used only when necessary,” said Megan Bremer, LIRS Staff Attorney for Access to Justice.
Read the full statement here.