As if the dramatic uptick in federal arrests of undocumented immigrants—particularly those without any criminal record—was not enough, the Trump administration is looking to expand its capacity to detain even more people.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has put out calls to identify privately-run jail sites where the federal government could house another 4,000 undocumented immigrants in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City, and southern Texas. USA Today reported the news on Wednesday, citing solicitation notices posted on websites for federal contractors.
All four of the cities named are sanctuary cities, local governments, or municipalities that have taken steps to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials. As a result, any effort to build new facilities or renovate existing buildings to house undocumented people as they await deportation proceedings in these cities would likely involve intense pushback from the community, setting the stage for direct confrontations with the Trump administration, which is already battling the issue of sanctuary cities in court.
The push for expansion is still in its infancy, but it is a troubling development from an administration that has already exponentially increased the number of undocumented Americans they’ve arrested and deported. From January 22 through September 9, Donald Trump’s administration arrested more than 97,000 people suspected of being in the country without proper authorization, a 43% increase over the same time during Obama’s presidency, according to ICE figures reported by USA Today. During the previous administration, ICE agents prioritized arresting violent offenders, while Trump’s administration has arrested 28,011 immigrants with no criminal record—nearly a 200% increase from the Obama years. Just last month, ICE confirmed they’d rounded up nearly 500 people during a national, four-day raid dubbed “Operation Safe City.”
“The Obama administration focused heavily on apprehending people on the border, but the Trump administration is targeting people in U.S. communities very far from the border,” Carl Takei, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, told USA Today. “And because they are targeting cities far from the border, they are looking for detention space in areas where historically they haven’t had as much detention space.”
Trump’s aggressive immigration policy has already proved a boon for the nation’s largest private prison companies, with executives from CoreCivic and GEO Group delivering optimistic earnings calls all the way back in August.