Democrats want to increase scrutiny of privately run immigration detention – NBCNews.com

By Suzanne Gamboa and Gwen Aviles

Democrats poised to hold committee positions in Congress that will give them jurisdiction over agencies in charge of keeping immigrants in custody, especially children, said Thursday they plan to step up scrutiny of immigration detention next year.

Democrats won control of the House in November, which means they take over leadership of committees and subcommittees in the next Congress, which opens in early January.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, who as the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations’ subcommittee on Homeland Security is in line to become its chairwoman.

On her to-do list: provide better access to legal counsel; use alternatives to detention, particularly for families; ensure that immigration facilities are more regularly inspected; and secure more funding for the hiring of social workers to work with unaccompanied child migrants.

“Mainly it’s going to be oversight, pushing for fairness and justice for these immigrants,” Roybal-Allard said.

Nov. 27, 201813:30

Although illegal immigration has dropped significantly in recent years, the Trump administration has stepped up immigration detention, including holding parents and children from Central America who have been more likely to cross the border and surrender to law enforcement authorities and request asylum.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the incoming chair of the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Services, pledged to “get accountability for the taxpayers’ dollars” that are being spent to hold unaccompanied immigrant children in tents in Tornillo, Texas.

She criticized a White House request for another $190 million for the program to be added to the spending bill that Congress is negotiating, which she said would prolong the detention of immigrant children beyond the current average of about 70 days.

“I will do everything I can to prevent them from getting one more nickel,” DeLauro said.

Congress is trying to finish up the spending package this year, and there is debate over how much will be spent on immigration enforcement, including immigration detention and the border wall that President Donald Trump has promised to build at Mexico’s expense.