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Under new spending package, rights advocates say ICE has historic detention budget

Congress passed a long-anticipated spending package Friday that includes money for a number of agencies — including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. 

The latest spending package includes more than $9.5 billion for the agency. 

Gabriela Viera, a senior advocacy manager with the advocacy group Detention Watch Network, says it's a major increase across the board.

"In a nutshell, we’re really seeing a huge investment in the expansion of ICE’s enforcement and removal operations," she said. "We pay specific mind to the appropriation to ICE’s custody account, you know, immigration detention budget, and that is getting $3.4 billion, which is actually the highest appropriation for immigration detention in ICE’s history, so extremely concerning to us, we know that this funding is ultimately only used to target, incarcerate and ultimately deport immigrants, which tears loved ones apart."

She says the amount is enough to hold an average daily population of 41,500 detainees, a number not seen since before the pandemic. The spending bill also includes funding for President Joe Biden’s Alternative to Detention Program, but Viera says that program has not historically resulted in a decrease in ICE detention.

About half of ICE’s annual budget goes toward detention and deportation programs, according to an analysis from the Washington Post. 

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.