The Law of Unintended Consequences states that mucking around in complex systems will invariably lead to outcomes that cannot be anticipated. Usually not in a beneficial way. The Republican push to let the massive budget cuts they overwhelmingly voted into law in 2011 actually come to pass is one of those events that the law applies to in spades.
The New York Times reports:
In a highly unusual move, federal immigration officials have released a wave of detainees from immigration detention centers around the country in an effort to save money as automatic budget cuts loom in Washington, officials said.
The releases, which have taken place over the past few days, were approved “in order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels,” Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement. The budget cuts, also called the sequester, are scheduled to take effect Friday.
One of the mainstays of Republican rhetoric is the “dire threat” illegal immigrants pose to every god-loving man, woman and child. So, it’s interesting that not only has the actions of the GOP directly led to the release of these “dangerous” people back on to the streets, it may lead to this becoming the norm.
The ICE is still moving forward with the cases against the immigrants but it’s expensive to hold them in detention centers. According to the Times, the former detainees are on “supervised release” that is very similar to parole or being out on bail. They are required to regularly report their whereabouts through phone calls, electronic monitoring or simply showing up in person. While it is possible that some of the detainees might “skip bail,” so to speak, the overwhelming majority will not and this is where the financial considerations come into the play:
The National Immigration Forum estimated last year that it cost the federal government between $122 and $164 per day to hold a detainee in its immigration system. In contrast, the organization said, alternative forms of detention could cost between 30 cents to $14 per day per immigrant.
There are two Republican interests in direct conflict here; on the one hand, the GOP gives a lot of lip service to “smarter government spending” as well as cutting government spending. On the other, Republicans love to privatize government functions like prisons which have, time and time again, turned out to be more expensive. However, privatizing is great for corporations; they get to provide worse service for more money. Said money is then “invested” into buying politician’s votes to perpetuate the scam.
Republicans will most likely squeal about the “dangerous” fugitives being released and demand that they be put back into expensive detention, particularly if said detention is privately run. They will also insist that this is some kind of publicity stunt by Obama to make “his” sequester look bad to put pressure on the GOP to cave into his “unreasonable” demands. That is, of course, if the GOP can be bothered to acknowledge that Obama even has a plan, something they seem to have trouble admitting.
The upshot is that the efficacy of a supervised release program over the expense and dehumanization of detention will have a clear real world example to point to in several states, making it that much harder for Republicans to sell their corporate agenda.