President Obama stands at a podium, speaking.

The White House budget increases funding for immigrant detention

Earlier this week the White House announced its proposed budget for the 2015 financial year. Media coverage of the proposal has noted its focus on the middle class, help for low-income college students, and the steps it takes to protect the health of women and families. But what the media narrative has glossed over is the budget’s implications for our immigration system. 

The proposal not only maintains the arbitrary 34,000 immigrant detention bed quota built into our system, but it increases it by 40 people. If approved, Congress will mandate that on any given day, the US detain 34,040 people, many of them in private prisons.

Tweet reading: @carltakei: Next wk, a baby girl in ICE detention will turn 1 mo. old. She & her mother have been in custody since she was just 11 days old.The budget also increases funding for family detention beds, in spite of the various human rights groups calling for an end to child and family detention. I wrote last year about the ways women detainees — many of whom are survivors of sexual violence and are eligible for asylum — cannot access the legal due process they deserve, and are housed in inhumane conditions with mediocre physical and mental health services. Since the time of that writing, detainees at the Karnes facility in Texas reported cases of sexual abuse at the hands of the guards. UltraViolet has been running a petition (which you can sign) pressuring the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the claims.

In a confusing and disappointing twist, Obama’s proposed budget actually does provide funding for some alternatives to detention, which are usually cheaper and more humane than immigrant detention. However, according to Detention Watch Network, the budget does not substitute them for detention. Instead, it expands the Alternatives to Detention program to include 29,807 people who would otherwise have been released.

This increased funding for criminalizing migrants is particularly disheartening considering President Obama’s executive action last fall, which gave deportation reprieve to millions of immigrants, including parents of legal residents. From the looks of his new budget, while some were spared with his action, others will be increasingly targeted to fill our growing immigrant detention bed quota.

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Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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